The Legal Side Of Writing (AND Teaching) For Your Business
By: Sandi Krakowski
When I began my first business it was important to understand trademarked names, phrases and logos. We had over 400 kitchenware products we were drop shipping and while most vendors and dealers gave us unlimited permission to use the graphics and images in our online and printed catalog, some required that we only use 2-3 images at the most. This occurred when a vendor also sold the product we purchased from them for resale on their own company websites or catalogs. Limited use is the phrase for only permitting someone to use images and descriptions in a limited way.
Many times I used the phrase, “The Art Of Bread Rising” in my marketing and was advised several times to have this trademarked or copyrighted. We never did and I honestly didn’t care who used it. No one could compete with me and how we did business anyways. That isn’t an arrogant statement it’s just that people are loyal to people in business, and the way I ran my eCommerce stores was very unique.
So where do you draw the line between what you should protect, what you can’t use that belongs to someone else and the wide range of imaginary protection some companies use that aren’t even legal in the first place (like over-inflated non-compete contracts)?
When it comes to trademarked names, phrases and images it’s a good idea to check the Trademark Database. Here’s an example- a picture of a bull wouldn’t be copyrighted or trademarked, that would be foolish. Using a photo of a bull is too common. But a picture of a bull with a line through it and the words, ” No Bull” are a trademarked image used by the legends in Direct Response Marketing and Copywriting, Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer.
Trademarks aren’t hard to find and sometimes you can even ask for permission to use something and it’s no big deal. You might stumble upon a JV deal or affiliate product you want to add to your marketing, and the vendor or product creator will gladly give you usage.
When you do catalogs online or offline, ask for the images directly from your vendor. Even when you do JV deals, promote a book or a product from someone else, just ask for the images you can use. That’s easy to do. People are happy to provide them and respect the integrity it takes to ask.
The legalities of copywriting and writing ad copy is pretty significant.
I surely don’t want you to turn into a paranoid writer but be mindful of these rules. You can get a good overview of what they are here from The American Writers And Artists Inc. This book shares what you can and can’t say in copy and how to be wise. However, If you aren’t looking to make 6-7 figures AS a copywriter I don’t think you need this book.
LISTEN UP, though…… if you are selling weight loss products, for example, you might find it important to note that in this book you’ll see that outrageous claims, misuse of testimonials and stating things that can’t be scientifically proven could fry your butt (and your company!) in the long run.
I worked with a company years ago that had one of the best products on the market.
This product literally flew off our shelves. Branding happened almost instantly because of the results people got. Then they made some foolish mistakes and didn’t watch what people were saying. When you called their corporate office to order a bottle of the amazing liquid supplement you heard story after story of miraculous events occurring because of the ingestion of said product. This went BEYOND just testimonials and now they were advertising health claims, miracles and more.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe many natural products can heal the body. I take several every single day. But to make a claim that something cures cancer, kills cancer cells, makes every single person who takes it drop 5 dress sizes in 24 hours is just not a good thing to do. Not to mention it breaks a very big copywriting rule that will ruin your conversions- it’s UNBELIEVABLE! Just because something is fantastic doesn’t mean the average person will want to buy it. Keep it relatable, easy to use and you’ll see more sales. No exaggerations needed!
Legal rules in the marketing of nutritional supplements is important to understand. Easy remedy- listen to what your company supplier tells you if you are in direct sales and honor those recommendations. They have a lot more at stake than you do. But pay attention when someone goes off the deep end! The company we worked with mentioned above went out of business with a $ 3 million dollar lawsuit and an FTC fine. Yikes!
Back to trademarks….. I’ve often heard it’s better to ask for forgiveness later than to seek permission from the get go. Whoever came up with that statement was a nut! ASK permission and avoid a law suit.
Don’t copy what others do.
Just because someone else was very successful using a phrase or word in their copy doesn’t mean you can copy and paste it into your campaign. Especially if they used someone else’s trademarked product, slogan or graphics.
In closing here are a few tips:
1. Be careful you aren’t using someone else’s trademarked logo or graphic or phrase. But don’t be paranoid about this topic.
2. Remember that original ideas might not always be the best thing to come up with. Most successful businesses are built on someone else’s idea that had a unique selling proposition attached to it.
3. Just because someone has a ton of contracts does not mean they are in control.
4. Build your business, fan the flame of creativity in everyone around you, and work together as a team to get the best results possible.
5. Don’t steal someone else’s trainings. Remember as well that when someone teaches a class and you take that lesson and teach it as your own, charging people to learn from you, not only is that copyright infringement, it’s a licensing violation and could end up costing you MILLIONS of dollars in fines. Teach your own classes, in your own way. Be brilliant and use the skills God gave you. No one gets ahead stealing.
Don’t get into trouble with a trademark!
Kick your business into higher profits by being yourself in marketing, being creative and understanding good copy sells because the words trigger a buying response, not because someone else’s trademarked image (or content!) was used.
P.S. If YOU need some help in your business coming up with creative content that converts OR you want to build a career around managing other
people’s content as a social media manager, my class that is coming in May is almost sold out! Get a seat now before it’s too late! 🙂 (The one who delays
always stays. JUMP! Get a seat!)