Friday, August 2, 2013

Copyright infringement when a mark is not being used "in commerce": The Baltimore Ravens example.

This is an interesting case involving an atypical application of copyright law. The plaintiff created a logo for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens shortly after the team announced its move from Cleveland in 1995. The plaintiff faxed his copy of the logo sketch to the team, and when the Ravens' logo was later released to the public, it was practically the same as the plaintiff's.

Normally, logo-copying is the province of a trademark infringement suit. However, the plaintiff here could only sue for copyright infringement, because his logo was not being used in commerce. If it had been used in commerce when the plaintiff faxed the logo to the team, he may have had a viable trademark infringement claim. Alternatively, if he had been a team official, he could have filed an intent-to-use trademark application when he created the logo, and an affidavit of use once it was being used in commerce.

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