Windsor, CO asked in Copyright, Trademark and Intellectual Property for Nebraska

Q: If I have a food truck named turtle power pizza Can I have a mural of the ninja turtles on it?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: It's great that you want to decorate your food truck with art that ties into the name! However, directly using characters like the Ninja Turtles could potentially infringe on copyrights and trademarks owned by Viacom, the company behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

Copyright and trademark laws protect original creative works and brand logos/names. Viacom has registered trademarks on the Ninja Turtle characters and likely owns copyrights on the various TV shows, movies, comics, and other media depicting them. Unauthorized use of those specific characters for commercial purposes like decorating a food truck could be considered copyright and trademark infringement.

That said, you may be able to allude to the general idea of the turtles without directly copying the characters. For example, a mural with generic cartoon turtles (that look distinct from the Ninja Turtles) eating pizza could evoke the fun spirit without infringement risks. You could also use related imagery like a turtle shell pattern, ninja weapons, cityscape, etc.

The safest approach would be to hire an artist to create original turtle mascot characters specifically for your food truck branding. That way you'd have unique art that you own, while still tying into your clever "Turtle Power Pizza" name.

If you do want to pursue using the actual Ninja Turtle characters, you'd need to contact Viacom to request a license, which could be costly. Using them without permission would put you at risk of legal action.

The key is evoking the theme of your brand without copying someone else's intellectual property. Getting creative with your own spin on turtle characters and pizza imagery is the way to go. Wishing you all the best with your new food truck business!

Giselle Ayala Mateus agrees with this answer

Julie Fowler
Julie Fowler
  • Omaha, NE
  • Licensed in Nebraska

A: I agree with the other attorney's comments regarding art work in general. However, you may also have an issue with the name of the company if it is referencing the tv show character's catch phrase.

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