More than 20 percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo, and for millennials that number jumps to almost 40 percent. What could be more intimately a part of you than a work of body art permanently inked into your skin? You probably assume that the tattoo on your body belongs to you. But, in actuality, somebody else might own your tattoo. Recent lawsuits and events have shown that tattoo artists and companies can have intellectual property rights in tattoos worn by others, including both copyright and trademark rights.
Tattoo-related lawsuits are not uncommon. Just this year, a group of tattoo artists for several high-profile athletes, including Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, filed a copyright lawsuit against the creators of the popular NBA 2K video game franchise because tattoos they created appear in NBA 2K16. The case is still pending in a New York federal court.
And the issue isn’t limited to celebrities and athletes. For example, Sam Penix, a coffee shop owner living in New York, was threatened with a trademark infringement lawsuit in 2013 based on the “I [coffee cup] NY” tattoo he has across his fist. Penix’s shop logo featured his tattooed fist grabbing a coffee portafilter between the words “Everyman Espresso.” The New York State Department of Economic Development, which owns the “I ♥ NY” trademark, sent Penix a cease-and-desist letter because it believed the logo infringed its trademark. To avoid being sued, Penix agreed to several terms, including some restrictions on how his fist could (and could not) be photographed.
Until courts and legislators create innovative legal solutions, both tattoo artists and people with tattoos should consider copyright agreements that specifically outline who owns a resulting tattoo. People with trademark tattoos should be aware that displaying their tattoos visibly in commerce could lead to liability. Otherwise, tattooed skin may end up with several owners with competing interests – and even if you live within that skin, you may not own the art that adorns it.
I’ve been thinking about getting more ink. If I do, it will be the same as my existing ink – my own original art work.
The full article is at Raw Story.