Modifying an existing copyrighted logo Help

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  • Ok here is my question, I would like to sell a Product with a Modified logo on it, I want to take the john deere logo and change it around and sell t shirts with this on it. I tried to sell them on ebay and I got banned saying I was in violation of copyright infringement. Someone told me (I cant remember who) That if you modify a logo by at least 15% you are not violating any laws.

    THIS IS WHAT EXACTLY EBAY SENT ME: because the trademark rights owner notified us, under penalty of perjury, that your listing misuses their brand name or trademark.

    Does anyone know this to be true. Or even more helpful do you know where I can find this in writing? Any help would be appreciated.

    Here is the original Logo:

    Here is the modified logo in question:
  • There's no magic number that tells you if you're violating laws or not. You can violate laws with 15% or 50% or whatever. A court decides in the long run.

    For copyright, you need to look at copyright exemptions. In this case probably fair use, which is dependent on four factors, or parody. In my non lawyerly opinion, you don't have a strong fair use case.

    1. Character of the use. Since this seems more commercial (if you're selling products) this weighs against you.
    2. The nature of the work. Since a logo is a creative work, I believe this may weigh against you as well. You do add your own creativity to it, though.
    3. Amount used. You're using the logo- this may weigh against you. However, you are not using the exact logo.
    4. Effect on the market. This entirely depends on what John Deere is doing. ^^; There probably isn't a lot of direct effect.

    Parody is probably a better argument. I don't have time this second to look up related parody cases, but I'll try later.

    That being said, trademark law and defamation are probably where difficulty comes in. Trademark law is pretty difficult. If there is any possibility of consumer confusion or trademark dilution, then the companies are likely to approach you or your ISPs, and they're entirely within their rights to do so. Here's some US law:
    §43 (15 U.S.C. §1125). False designations of origin; false description or representation

    The infringement doesn't have to be willful, either. Companies are very protective of their trademarks, and they're fairly likely to take legal action. There are fair uses for trademarks, but commercial uses like this generally aren't fair uses.

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