Guest Post by Elizabeth Potts Weinsten
You’ve seen those “As Seen In” logo collections showcasing every media source in which a company, product, or person has been featured.
But every time I saw these collections, I put on my lawyer hat and wondered … is that legal?
There are two major legal issues when you use other people’s logos on your site: trademarks and copyrights.
HOW TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT LAW AFFECT HOW YOU CAN USE MEDIA LOGOS ON YOUR SITE
Media logos are trademarks of that particular media company. But there are circumstances where you can use the trademark of another company in your marketing, without illegally violating their trademark rights and subjecting yourself to a claim of infringement.
One fundamental principle to understand is that trademarks are not designed to protect companies. Trademarks are designed to protect customers from confusion.
If you use the logos in a way that won’t confuse customers or the public, then you probably are not infringing the trademark. But you have to remember to think from the perspective of what would confuse *the public* and not what would confuse you, a sophisticated marketer/businessperson.
If the logos’ placement, size or usage imply that you are affiliated with that media company, or that you are being endorsed by them, then you may be violating their trademark rights. It might also be false advertising. So you need to be very careful in how you use the logos.
For that reason, it is a good practice to use a phrase such as “as seen in” or some other language to specify the relationship between you and that media organization.
I also recommend having the logos be smaller than your other logos/graphics, so it correctly shows the proportionate importance of the media trademarks versus your own trademarks. If you make the media logos clickable and go to your “In the News” page on your site, it also helps to provide clarity (and is a great idea to show off your press).
The most conservative choice is to use the media logos only in relationship to those specific media quotes or articles. You can see some examples of that on these sites: “Press Mentions” on Insightly and the logos with quotes on Tim Ferris’ site.
When using logos for a non-media company or an event, you need to be extra careful.
In that case, a customer could reasonably assume that the company or event is affiliated with you, or even employs you. I’d recommend obtaining the company or event’s express permission. Some blogs and events even have specific “Contributor to…” or “Speaker at…” logos they use for that purpose.
One way to get permission is to make that logo linkable back to their website, thereby giving them something back. In some cases, you may need to put in a specific disclosure disclaiming any affiliation.
You can check the legal portion of a company’s website to see if they have specific trademark, logo or brand usage guidelines. I haven’t found such information at the big media companies, but you do find such guidelines on big non-media company websites.
These guides have specific rules about what you can and cannot do to their logo, and may include a “safety space” that’s required to be around their logo (important if you plan to create a big graphical collection of logos). Here are some examples: Twitter & YouTube.
Logos are also protected by copyright law. However, if you are using a small version of the logo, are only using it for the purpose of reporting where you have been featured, and you link back to their site/article, then your use is probably fair use.
WHEN USING MEDIA LOGOS ON YOUR WEBSITE, REMEMBER:
1. Do not be misleading. Makes sure that the way you use the logos does not make it seem like these brands are endorsing you. Use a phrase such as “as seen in” or “in the news” or “press mentions” to be clear.
If you were quoted or mentioned in one sentence, Don’t say that you were “featured” by a media source — featured means something more than mentioned.
2. Check their brand guidelines. Many major companies have brand guidelines where they state how their logos and trademarks may be used without infringing your license. If you use a particular service (such as Twitter) you agreed to their Terms which usually incorporate such guidelines.
If you are not a user of their service, their brand guidelines inform you about where they draw the line (aka what you can do to avoid a cease and desist letter).
3. Watch size and placement. If you’re using a huge high-res media logo at the top of your site, it looks like you are affiliated with them, and it is probably both trademark infringement and copyright infringement. If you use a smaller version of their logo, in combination with other media logos, in a particular “In the News” section of your sidebar or footer, then it is unlikely to be confusing to any visitor to your site.
Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, founder and lead attorney at EPW Small Business Law PC, is a small business attorney who helps entrepreneurs, artists, coaches, and consultants get the legal stuff out of their way so they can get back to helping their clients and changing the world. She works with clients on a flat-fee or retainer basis, helping them with contracts, business formation, trademarks, copyrights, and advice about doing business online. Find her and get simple business law tips on Twitter and on the web.