I had a client recently ask me to add some logos from other companies to his website. The logos were from news organizations, and his intention was to use the logos as links to articles that those organizations had on their websites. This raised a question about proper use of trademarked symbols and so, like I usually do when I learn something new, I wrote this article about what I learned. Disclaimer, I’m not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. It’s just a blog article. ðŸ™‚
U.S. law protects the use of trademarks by non-owners for purposes of criticism and commentary. First Amendment considerations override any expressive, noncommercial use of trademarks.
See “criticism and commentary”? So that makes sense. That’s why bloggers can write about and use logos from companies as part of the articles they write.
Wikipedia went on to explain that the circle with an R means that they are federally registered, while the TM, means they aren’t federally registered, but it’s a company’s way of saying “hey, I am using this and might be in the process of registering”. Either one is considered a trademark symbol, and using either one incorrectly can potentially get you into trouble.
I know, I know, Wikipedia isn’t always right. So I consulted my favorite trademark attorney in Seattle Jefferson Coulter. He was kind enough to send this response (and gave me permission to post it in this article):
It really just depends how you use the marks. Trademark infringement comes down to customer confusion. If you use someone else’s trademark in a way that “tricks” customers into using your services or buying your goods, that’s infringement. If you say, “Iams is the best product ever. Buy it here.” You’d be fine. If you call yourself SuperIams and sell dog food, you’d be in trouble.
So in the case of my client’s request, we need to make sure that in no way are we using those icons in a manner that would suggest they endorsed my client’s products, and it would be especially good if we embedded the icon with some words around it like: “Read this great article about widgets here: (insert logo). Avoid customer confusion.Jill
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.