Many New Jersey residents have tattoos, and while tattooing is a routine procedure, complications including pain and risk of infection exist. Those who are inked may not be aware of another potential issue with tattoos: copyright and trademark issues. While tattoos are not traditional property, trademark laws regarding how and when an image may be photographed, recorded or otherwise used in public may apply, according to legal professionals.
When an individual receives a tattoo of a company’s trademarked symbol or logo, that image is considered the legal property of the company, not the person who has it inked on his or her skin. A tattoo may also be considered the intellectual property of the tattoo artist who designed the image and performed the work since, under federal trademark law, one’s intellectual property is protected. Copyright protection is granted to original work that meets three requirements. The work must be original, in a fixed location and a work of authorship. Most tattoos meet the requirements, intellectual property experts agree.
In 2016, several tattoo artists who work with prominent athletes filed a federal trademark complaint against a video game company when they noted that their artwork appeared in a game featuring the likenesses of famous basketball players. While experts say that the average citizen may be less likely to be involved in a tattoo trademark lawsuit than a sports or entertainment figure, the possibility exists.
Tattooed individuals should keep in mind that their tattoo may be considered the intellectual property of the artist and should be treated as such. Those who are involved in a trademark dispute often have may questions and may wish to consult with an attorney who has experience with these matters to discuss how to proceed.