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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


Trademarks and Web Design

May 10th, 2008

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. 🙂

I looked up several sources. I first looked up Wikipedia to see what they had to say about trademarks and logos. Here’s something I found that was helpful:

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.

J. Olkoski
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.

2 Responses to “Trademarks and Web Design”

  1. Jefferson Coulter Says:

    Thanks for the mention. Another interesting problem that web designers have is when and how to use certain content (pictures, text, digital, etc) created by someone else. Check out for some general information.

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Jefferson,
    Thanks for the link!

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