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Log In / Register | Jan 23, 2017

Using Logos

Some questions have been asked of late about the use of logos in our articles and encyclopedia entries. I took a journey through Wikipedia, a collaborative online encyclopedia, this evening and found that it answered many intellectual property questions regarding the use of franchise logos on Blue MauMau. 

The First Amendment allows for the fair use of logos when it is obvious that they are used in news commentary and criticism. Wikipedia has this to say about its own guidelines on the use of company logos with articles:

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 by corporations. (see L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Pubs., Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 31, 33 (1st Cir. 1987.)

...The only limit on this right is whether someone might think that the commentary was produced by the trademark owner. "[A]n author certainly would have a First Amendment right to write about the subject of the Boy Scouts and/or Girl Scouts. However, this right is diluted by trademark law insofar as that author cannot present her subject in a manner that confuses or misleads the public into believing, through the use of one or more trademarks, that those organizations have produced or sponsored the work in question." See Girl Scouts of the United States v. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 808 F. Supp. 1112 at 1121, n. 12 (S.D.N.Y. 1992.)

There are four conditions that a blogger should avoid using logos. Again, these guidelines are drawn from Wikipedia.

  1. Extreme high density images should be avoided. The use of screen quality 72 dpi is generally desired in publishing logos on the Web. This lower level of quality is generally accepted as constituting fair use in news stories and comments hosted by Blue MauMau's servers in the U.S. The best source of the logo is from a franchisor's own web page, where it is the most current.
  2. Avoid using a logo in any way that creates an impression that the purpose is to promote another brand.
  3. Logos should generally NOT be used with strongly negative and inflammatory criticism. It is legal but franchisors tend to vehemently object that such free speech associations diminish their brand.
  4. Logos should not be defaced unless it is OBVIOUS that it is part of parody. The complete article needs to be a parody and not just the logo. Parody is part of fair use. Articles in which logos have been altered for reasons of parody should be placed in Blue MauMau's "humor" section.

If there is an objection on the part of the logo's owner, Blue MauMau reserves the right to take the logo off.

Editor's note: OK you attorneys out there. Please share your thoughts about reasonable and safe guidelines for the use of franchise logos on Blue MauMau.

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About Don Sniegowski

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email don@bluemaumau.org.