Normally I'd say if you are a legitimate small business that wants to make it in the long run you should have your shop examined by an attorney specializing in copyright, BUT these days there are words and phrases that, in my opinion (and the opinion of the majority of others) are so general they should never be allowed to be protected. Sadly, money talks, and things you and I have been saying or doing for years can be trademarked or copyrighted right out from underneath us if a big corporation is willing to shell out the big bucks. Therefore, I've compiled a list of words/phrases and/or designs that are copyright/trademark/patent that you may be unknowingly using that you need to stop using now.
The sad part is, you cannot possibly research and cross reference EVERY SINGLE WORD in conjunction with another word. No one can. As soon as a trademark/ copyright holder flags your listing to Etsy, Etsy removes your listing and after having to remove too many listings due to infringement, Etsy will shut down your shop. In fact, so many shops have been shut down, and now that the word is getting around, more and more small businesses are flocking to their own independent websites in fear of using Etsy for this very reason.
My theory to any selling platform website is this: Trademark and copyright holders should be required to deal with each shop they take issue with on an individual basis OR if selling sites are going to get involved- they need to be all IN & review each listing before it is posted to that platform. For instance, I create a listing on Etsy--> Etsy has a legal team that reviews the listing to make sure there is not any infringement involved --> Listing goes live. Easy enough, right? OR selling sites need to get all OUT and allow the trademark and copyright holders to handle their issues with the business owner.
Let's get started!
#1: Onesie. Onesie is actually trademarked by Gerber. Anything confusingly similar is not allowed either, so "onsie", "onezie", "1Z", or anything else you can come up with that would be confusingly similar is out also. The recommended terms to use for a baby one piece snapsuit are: bodysuit, diaper shirt, one piece, snapsuit, & baby jumpsuit. Trust me, I found out the hard way along with 100's of THOUSANDS of other small shops.
Consumers: Please keep this in mind when you are shopping for baby clothing of this type. Search the above mentioned alternative terms if you are in search of a decorated, embellished, baby one piece because if you are searching "onesie" the only items that you should find will be Gerber products.
#2: Taggies. The company not only owns the word, they have a patent on the design for looped ribbons edging blankets. Along with "Taggies", anything confusingly similar is also prohibited, like "tagged baby blanket".
Consumers: When searching for a baby blanket of this nature without purchasing directly from the company can be tricky because even if a small shop is not using the term "taggies" or "tagged blanket", they would also be infringing on the patent. The best alternative search term I have found is "sensory blanket". Since Taggies began fiercely policing this trademark, several creative sellers set out to put their own spin on a new type of sensory blanket that doesn't violate Taggies protected version & you can find several of them on Etsy. This one from TheFairyFeltMother on Etsy is one of my favorites, and by far one of the most creative.
#3: Koozie. Of course, anything confusingly similar is also prohibited.
Consumers: A few suggested terms & keywords to use to find those thingy's that keep your canned beverage cold are: "can coolers", "beer cooler", "drink cooler", and "can hugger".
#4: NFL, MLB, & any other major league sports team logo. This seems like a very obvious one to me, but somehow people are still using them & Etsy shop's are getting flagged and at times, even removed over it. One person I know of was actually sued over it and forced to pay a fine from his small business earnings from its prior 3 years of business. It's not worth losing your business, so just don't do it.
Consumers: When searching for darling little outfits to dress your tots in or décor for your home for Monday Night Football, Playoff's, Superbowl - whatever- there are plenty of shops that make ADORABLE sport themed item's that do not infringe.
#5: John Deere. You're probably thinking, "Duh. Of course John Deere is copyright." What you may not know is that John Deere also holds the patent on any green tractor with yellow wheels.
Consumers: If you're searching for tractor themed items, but are not looking to purchase John Deere, simply search terms like, "tractor baby outfit", "farm equipment décor", etc.
#6: Rock Me Mama & Hey Mama Rock Me. In fact, here is a piece of information from LegalZoom.com regarding song lyrics and their protection: "Copyright protects all aspects of an artistic work, as long as the work is original and has been reduced to a tangible medium. Song lyrics, for example, are protected as soon as they are recorded, whether in audio or written form. Although you don't need to register your song lyrics with the U.S. Copyright office to enjoy copyright protection, registration makes it easier to prove you wrote the lyrics before they infringer did and allows you to collect damages without proving economic harm."
#7: Any Other Small Businesses! As clearly mentioned in #6, one does not need to register their work to be protected. The artist is protected by copyright the instant they design their piece. Though some may not be a large corporation with endless money to chase down everyone that attempts to infringe on their work doesn't mean you should think it's o.k. to steal their work & profit from it .
Consumers: When you find a unique item, the right thing to do is to purchase from that person. If you want to support a local seller or someone you know, the right thing to do is to view item's they've already made to see if they have something similar to or in the category of what you need & if not, to ask them to design something for you themselves that does not infringe on another small business owners hard work.
#8: Anything Disney. I cannot even believe I actually have to include this in here. As if this isn't something that should just be a matter of common sense, but sadly, it isn't. There are people ripping Disney off EVERYWHERE and getting caught up in legal troubles as well as having their shops shut down. I don't know about you, but my shop is my main source of earning a living and I cannot afford astronomical infringement fines and/ or being shutdown.
Consumers: When you are shopping for your children, keep this in mind. There are plenty of awesome sellers that offer extremely unique items that you can build your child's birthday party around without asking a seller to risk their business by infringing on a copyright/ trademark. The Lil' Man Mustache theme shown below is always adorable for boys and you can do a Princess, Mermaid, or any other theme without infringing on a Disney product. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside the box and a great designer and small business owner will be able to guide you towards something personalized that will be UNIQUE since it is designed especially for you.
Consumers: If you are looking for fun fitness items- search just that, "fitness items", "fitness shirt", "fitness tank", "gym shirt", etc. Crossfit is taken.
Consumers: If you are searching for item's that you think would fall in this category, please also search terms like, "distressed", "rustic", "antique", etc.
Consumers: If you are seeking some country type apparel please be sure to search alternates like, "western apparel", "western t shirts", etc.
Consumers: I've got nothing for you on this one. HAHA.
Consumers: When you are looking for products of this color please use search terms such as "mint" and "aqua".
If you're viewing this as a business owner were you surprised by any of these? Do you have any you'd add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!