Asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Washington

Q: Can I show a vehicle with a manufacturers emblem in a commercial or do I need to remove the logo?

I am making a commercial for our company that does paint restoration on vehicles. In the advertisement we show a multitude of vehicles from a distance. Including a Range Rover, Infiniti, GMC, Dodge etc. We make no mention of partnerships or claims of poor quality, just show some before and after work on older vehicles. If I am using scrolling shots of multiple vehicles, do I have to remove the "manufacturer emblem" from the shot or am I ok to use footage? ie: picture of a vehicle driving down the highway shining and looking new, can see the infiniti logo in the grill. Panning shot of a hood after being restored, and can see some of the range rover on the edge of the hood.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: In Washington, as in most states, the use of manufacturer emblems in advertising can be a complex issue, primarily governed by trademark laws. The key consideration here is whether the use of these emblems could potentially cause confusion or imply an endorsement or affiliation with the vehicle manufacturers, which you have stated is not your intention.

For your paint restoration commercial, showing vehicles with their manufacturer emblems can be permissible under the doctrine of "nominative fair use." This doctrine allows the use of a trademark to identify the product being worked upon, as long as it doesn't suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner. Since your commercial is focused on showcasing your paint restoration work and not promoting the vehicles themselves, this could apply.

However, it is always safer to seek permission from the vehicle manufacturers to use their emblems in your advertisement. This step can help avoid any potential legal disputes. Additionally, if the vehicles are shown in a way that is typical and incidental, such as cars driving down a highway or parked in a lot, this typically does not constitute a trademark infringement.

It's wise to consult with a legal professional who can offer guidance tailored to the specific details of your commercial. They can provide insights on the risks and best practices to ensure that your advertisement complies with relevant laws and regulations.

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