Palo Alto, CA asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for California

Q: Will my website idea violate any copyright and/or trademark restrictions?

I'd like to build a website where I create CAD models of various products and allow users to visually configure them together to see how it would look, and display stats based on their configuration. An example of this would be showing what one brand of rim would look like on another brand's car, and then displaying stats such as total cost and weight. All of the CAD models and renderings would be entirely my own, but would depict each product with as much detail as possible including any Trademarked logos and text. I would also want to provide links to buy these products (directing to the company's own website). I would not be selling anything through this website, except perhaps advertisement space for companies to display their products ahead of others. Would I need each company's permission to do do this? I would think this is treated equivalent to a product review website, but with 3D renderings instead of photographs. A comparable website to this is

1 Lawyer Answer
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp PRO label
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Beverly Hills, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The depiction of branded products as you describe, for illustrative and informational purposes, does not infringe the trademarks and is called "nominative fair use" just as it is for reviews and commentary, so long as you are not selling those products. Linking to the trademark owners' sales outlets does not require permission and it is, in effect, free advertising for those companies so they should not complain. Offering to elevate the brands' visibility in return for a fee is also permissible.

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