Celebrities, Tattoos and Intellectual Property

Living in Austin, Texas many people here have tattoos, and there are several different areas of intellectual property law that are relevant to tattoos.

The three main areas of intellectual property law that are associated with tattoos are copyright law, trademark law, and patent law. These areas of law also affect an average person. However the cost of intellectual property litigation will likely cost more than any monetary recovery that one could collect from a lawsuit from an average person and it is harder to identify an average person’s tattoos than a celebrity that is constantly in the public eye. Further, many people who get a tattoo of a logo or design (such as the NFL or Mickey Mouse) are fans of the corporation with the protected work and a corporation would not want to negative publicity backlash caused by suing some of their biggest fans.

As discussed at http://piersonpatentlaw.com/overview-of-copyrights/ a copyright is a form of intellectual property for “original works of authorship.” Original works of authorship may be interpreted as creative works recorded in any known medium.  For tattoos, the medium could be a sketch of the design of the tattoo or the tattoo on the skin itself. If an artist created a unique design for their tattoo then the work could be copyrighted, and another may not be able to use their design without a license or may face a copyright infringement lawsuit. One example of this is in the Movie Hangover 2 where Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist sued for copyright infringement for the tattoo on Ed Helms (Andy from the office) face. Because Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist had created an original work of authorship (the tattoo) another person could not copy the design. However, Warner Bros. could have modified the design of the tattoo and would not have infringed.

As discussed at http://piersonpatentlaw.com/overview-of-trademarks/ a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others, and a service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. One can sue over a trademark is trademark/service mark if in connection with a sale of a good if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. An example of a likelihood of confusion may be associated with an artist who created a design for a tattoo. If a tattoo artist creates a trademarked tattoo people may want the specific artist to tattoo them, and if other tattoo artists begin copying the trademarked tattoo then there may be confusion over who is the tattoo artist that is the source of the tattoo. Therefore, the original tattoo artist who created the trademarked work could sue others for copying the mark.

As discussed at http://piersonpatentlaw.com/what-is-a-patent/ an inventor can receive a patent for inventions that are novel, nonobvious, and useful. Therefore, there I am sure people have been granted patents for many things associated with tattoos, such as ink guns and the ink itself.

By | 2012-11-19T22:31:36+00:00 November 19th, 2012|Copyright Basics, Patent Basics, Trademark Basics|Comments Off on Celebrities, Tattoos and Intellectual Property