I thought you might enjoy this letter I received from some lawyer in Nebraska. I have been sitting on this post for about a week as I debated how much trouble I wanted to get into. I have come to the conclusion that as good as it would feel to make this corporation look foolish, I am going to play it safe and “protect” their identity by referring to them as “X Corporation.” This letter comes in the context of work shown in my online portfolio which was never used by the corporation. Other than changing the names, here is the letter without any further editing:
Re: X Corporation unauthorized use of trademark
Dear Mr. Hanft:
Our office represents X Corporation and our client has discovered that you are utilizing the trademark of X Corporation and materials, including photographs that are the work product of X Corporation.
Since the work product and the trademark of X Corporation are subject to protection under Federal Law, I would ask that you furnish me with a copy of any written permission that you may have received from anyone associated with X Corporation. A copy of that written permission must be furnished to me within ten (10) days of the date of your receipt of this letter.
In the event that you do not have written permission to utilize the trademark and work product of X Corporation, all such items must immediately be removed from your website. Absent proof of any written permission to utilize the trademark and work product of X Corporation, I will require written confirmation that all such materials have been removed from your your website and that they are not otherwise being utilized by you. This confirmation should also be provided within ten (10) days from the date of your receipt of this letter.
In any event, the presentation contained in your website presents X Corporation in an unfavorable manner, and, in the event that X Corporation suffers any damage to its reputation as a result of the editorialized presentation contained in your website, you are hereby placed on notice that this may result in a claim being initiated against you to recover any damages that might be suffered by X Corporation.
If you are unable to produce specific authorization for the use of the X Corporation trademark, logo and work product, I will advise my client to pursue injunctive relief and seek recovery of monetary losses that it might suffer as a result of your improper trade practices.
I await your prompt reply.
Very truly yours,
LEININGER, SMITH, AND FIVE, OTHER NAMES, THAT ARE, PRINTED IN, ALL CAPS
This problem came to the surface, no doubt, because a casual entry in my design portfolio took sixth place in a Google search for the company’s name. I thought I was honest in my description of the project, but you can judge for yourself. The irony is that I worked hard to improve the corporation’s identity only to have my work ignored and unused, Then after missing the opportunity to improve their identity, they threaten the person who was trying to help them in the first place.
Needless to say, I have removed the work from my website and am evaluating my rights in regard to the work in question. I am sure we could all have a great time critiquing the logo that they are so passionately defending, but that doesn’t do anybody any good. What I would like to do is start a discussion that rises above my pathetic situation and helps designers understand the rights they have in regard to the work they create. Do you know your rights? Have you had a client request that you not use your own work for self promotion? Have you had to remove a trademark from your website? Has someone taken credit for your design work (I just read about a design theft story on Airbag) forcing you to ask them to remove it from their website? Do you have advice for designers so that they don’t end up with a similar letter? Do you hate lawyers? Do you hate designers? Do you think I am a wuss for removing the work from my portfolio and not telling you who the corporation is? Would you ever click on a Google ad for a lawyer on a site about graphic design? Your thoughts are welcome.