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Author Topic: Are slight changes to a trademarked phrase infringement?  (Read 170 times)

jkornick07

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(All of the following are just examples to allow discussion, but not the reality of the situation of the exact situation I am curious about).

If I were to make slight changes to a trademarked catchphrase and sell products showing the new phrase would it be infringement. Using "That's Hot!", could I make shirts saying "That's Not Hot!" or "Now That's Hot!" to make fun of or provide the opposite view point. Even though it would be somewhat of a parody on the original phrase, merchandise may be sold.

Thanks for any assistance.
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Tobmapsatonmi

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Re: Are slight changes to a trademarked phrase infringement?
« Reply #1 on: 12-07-17 at 06:35 pm »

(All of the following are just examples to allow discussion, but not the reality of the situation of the exact situation I am curious about).

If I were to make slight changes to a trademarked catchphrase and sell products showing the new phrase would it be infringement. Using "That's Hot!", could I make shirts saying "That's Not Hot!" or "Now That's Hot!" to make fun of or provide the opposite view point. Even though it would be somewhat of a parody on the original phrase, merchandise may be sold.

Thanks for any assistance.

Disclaimer: not a trademarks guru so the below is just general musings.

If I understand your question correctly, someone else owns trademark rights in the mark "That's Hot!".

If so, your use of the other phrases and attempt to say it's okay because it's a parody probably won't fly.  You're still getting value (selling merchandise) by trading on the notoriety of the other guy's mark.  Not sure this is specifically trademark "infringement" because you could argue in particular the the "NOT" means the public won't be confused about the source of the goods (what TM law is mainly about).  But even if not, there are other unfair trade practice laws that could apply.  And if his mark can be considered a "famous" mark, there are considerably enhanced remedies for those which permit the owner to make legal claims against close uses that "dilute" or "tarnish" his mark.

But let's say you're 100% legally correct, but it turns out to be what we call a "close question".  Do you have the money to defend to the death the suit that the other guy is going to bring?

Google "north face" and "south butt" together.
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