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Are Names of Military Equipment Protected by Trademark or Copyright?

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by g10sha, Apr 17, 2003.

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  1. g10sha

    g10sha Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I work for a company that is developing a videogame which features likenesses of US military ships and aircraft that are currently in commission.

    Are the names of such equipment copyrighted or trademarked?

    As government property, I would imagine that they are not. However, as products of defense contractors, I can just as easily imagine that they are.

    If you could answer this question or refer me to someone who can, I would be grateful!

    Ben
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2003
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    We do that kind of work at TheLaw.com and we can be contacted by using our contact form (see top navigation bar or left navigation bar.) These usually involve trademark searches... Let us know if you require assistance...
     
  3. RaisetheBar

    RaisetheBar New Member

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    What the hell kind of answer is that? an advertisement for TM searches?

    The post deserves a general answer (not a search for a specific name) since it is asking several general questions?

    Can government issued "stuff" by copyrighted? Answer: no, the only exception being the US Postal service which is allowed to copyright the artwork they put on stamps. So stuff like the outline of a battleship or the capitol or something like that could be reproduced.

    Can gov't stuff be trademarked? Yes it could. Do you have something specific in mind? Remember a Tm is a name or a logo. DO you really intend to duplicate a government logo or name? It seems like you maybe just want to duplicate pictures of battleships and such.

    You can do a TM search for yourself, by just going to the US patent and Tm office site. It's not difficult.

    Can you get into trouble if you copy a government symbol or a military vehicle? This is a tricky area. Let me give you two examples:

    Jeep. Jeep was a generic name for the general purpose vehicle used in WW II. One of the car makers registered Jeep for their jeeps. I dont agree w/ this result, but there you have it.

    Another example. Some group wanted to make a parody of the Surgeon General. Let's just call it the Surgeon Lieutenant or something like that. Boy did C. Everett Koop get his bundies in a knot. HE threated all sorts of dire litigation. The client dropped the idea.

    But you get the pt. you can run into some problems here, but not if you just want to reproduce images of government issued stuff.
     
  4. freebird

    freebird Member

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    The post seemed to ask for someone who specializes in what they do and that's a pretty harsh response although perhaps not intended as such. The fact is that government issued items may not be reproduceable for a number of reasons. Your answer would make it seem that anything could be reproduced by individuals and that is not true.

    To begin, we have no idea whether the items in question are produced by private contractors and purchased by the government, which is far more likely than a scenario where the government produces these items by themselves. It's the same example that you gave.

    Are the names of ships copyrightable? Generally I don't think that government issue ships are but again, everything depends upon facts and circumstances and it's tough to know all the specifics from a vague post.


     
  5. RaisetheBar

    RaisetheBar New Member

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    Why is it harsh? THe professor offered his/her services for pay w/o offering much guidance or general information. I offered a bit more information of a general nature and then gave two concrete examples?

    From your example about ships, it seems to me that you have no experience in copyright law at all. Names of ships are not copyrightable, because name of anything are not copyrightable!!

    Gee, that's like copyright law 101.

    YOu also said that government issue items may not be reproducible for any number of reason. Can you suggest a few instead of being so vague?

    It's possible the government could hold a patent, they hold lots of patents, but that's not likely an issue here, the person is talking about reproducing the likeness of ships, etc. These are images not patentable items

    So again I ask you: what examples do you mean when you say they are not reproducible? I again state a very basic premise: government stuff is not copyrightable with the exception of the US Postal service.
     
  6. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I think Freebird's point was that since there is tremendous amount of flow of goodwill and free discussion flowing in one direction akin to pro bono, even if it seemed that a response to a question included a notification that a request for service could be handled, I'm surprised that anyone would what would seem to be a rather vocal complaint!!!

    I run through a lot of posts here and don't have the time as others to look with a careful eye at every aspect of a post and also may only catch one bit to answer. While a better answer should have been given... lighten up!!!! We are all here in good will and nature. :)

    Speaking about copyright law here as we are dealing with likeness, if the work is a work of the US Government then under copyright law it should not be protected. BUT we have no idea whether this is the case as the ship, craft or other item might be the work of a private company, e.g. weapons such as the Walther PPK, even if such were standard issue there would likely be copyright issues. First investigation should be whether the works that you hope to make images of are works of the US Government or private company and take it from there.


     
  7. RaisetheBar

    RaisetheBar New Member

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    I'm not upset, I just didnt feel it was a very complete answer.

    your last pt. about 3rd party contractors is an interesting pt. I probably wouldnt sweat that issue, but it's an interesting issue. Would the contractor have to put a copyright notice on the boat? I realize now that this is not required but we are talking about older ships here, yes?

    Can you imagine USS Saratoga w/ a US navy ensign and a "Copyright 1936. Acme Shipbuilding Co."

    Funny.

    Hey professor you say you read all the posts in this forum.Did it really take you 3 months to get back to this one? ;) Do you not agree this forum simply does not really get the traffic that it is due? I mean there are lots of good questions here, but really almost no one to answer them.

    I stopped reading here since it seems the traffic is so slow. Are there any better sites? Do you have any suggestions how to improve this site?
     

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