Intellectual property law can be complex and really requires the legal assistance of a seasoned trademark lawyer or intellectual property attorney. One of the areas that can get bogged down in legal mire is print on demand (POD) issues. Print on demand is the business of selling products that have custom designs printed on them, such as bags, books, clothing, and mugs. POD websites provide a way for individual artists to showcase their designs and build an eCommerce presence online. However, print on demand also can trigger infringement issues for brand owners.
Typically, print on demand websites let users upload and sell their designs without too much oversight that could prevent copyright or trademark infringement. This lack of oversight makes it easier for products that do infringe to become available to consumers. These policies also mean that POD websites are able to avoid any liability when infringement does occur. The burden instead falls on the brand owners.
Counterfeiting is also an issue and has become even more of an issue with the availability of 3D printers. These printers let counterfeiters produce almost exact copies of original items. They also enable the reproduction of counterfeit labels and packaging. As the popularity of print on demand websites continues to grow, the more prevalent counterfeiting will become.
So, what legal recourse does a business have if they find out their intellectual property has been infringed on by a POD website? There are several things that a company can do to protect and enforce their brand against this type of infringement:
Trademark Claim: Many print on demand websites have some kind of contact form or designated email address that deals with trademark-related issues. POD companies require some kind of proof that you have the trademark. A registered trademark is the strongest evidence. You should also provide an explanation as to why the items being reported are similar to the items your company has trademarked. Most POD companies prefer to avoid infringement claims and will usually remove the alleged infringing items from the site.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice: This is usually the quickest way a business or artist has to fight copyright infringement. Most POD websites will remove the alleged infringing products when they have been served with a DMCA Takedown.
Infringement Lawsuit: In some situations, the best legal option is to file a lawsuit for infringement. Not only will this put a stop to the alleged infringement, but the injured party can also collect damages their company may have suffered because of the infringement. In one famous case, Harley-Davidson was awarded $19.2 million from the company SunFrog because the latter refused to stop selling T-shirts with the Harley Davidson logo. If you have been a victim of infringement by a print on demand company, contact a trademark lawyer at Kaplan Law Practice who can help take the legal action to make sure this activity stops.