The Legal Side Of Copywriting, Marketing, Email Marketing and More

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  • August 23, 2010

The Legal Side Of Business

By: Sandi Krakowski


When I began my first business it was important to understand trademarked names, phrases and logos. We had over 400 products we were drop shipping and while most vendors and dealers gave total 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. These were companies who also sold the product we purchased from them for resale on their own company websites or catalogs.

Many times I used the phrase, "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. 

Tony Robbins has a lot of training on this topic as do many other business trainers and coaches. So I knew that if that phrase was used by other stores online it wouldn't affect my profits because they weren't me….. and my customers loved me, not my marketing. * big wide smile *

It's never been my mode of operation to set up a bunch of legal documents in an effort to protect my business.  

It is my belief that the more contracts one has the more likely they are the one you should be keeping an eye on.  Far too many companies are attempting to control employees, contractors, writers and more with contracts. Trust and respect work a lot better and go a long way. 

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 just aren't even legal?

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 isn't copyrighted or trademarked, that would be foolish. But a picture of a bull with a line through him and the words, " No Bull" are a trademarked image used by the legends in Direct Response Marketing and Copywriting. 

You can see them at:  This little image is everywhere! On their books, their website, their banner ads…. you can see for yourself. So don't go using an image like this and thinking you created it in your marketing. Major no no.

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.

When you do catalogs online or offline, ask for the imagines 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.  If you aren't looking to make 6-7 figures AS a copywriter I don't think you need this book. 

However, if you are selling weight loss 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 in the long run.

I worked with a company years ago that had one of the best products on the market. 

It 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. 

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.  

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. 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! In my humble opinion. No further comment. 

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. 

What about the original idea? 

MaryEllen Tribby has a brilliant article on the original idea myth. There's no such thing as protecting every creative thought or idea someone has who works with you. Not to mention wants to control people around you like that- they'll be so scared their creativity will be thwarted.  I highly recommend you read this article, "Debunking The Original Idea Myth." 

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.

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 was used.  

facebookpink 150x150 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’tsSandi Krakowski spent 6 years in the Direct Sales industry building a $ 4 million dollar company that was run 100% online through eCommerce, building large sales forces in network marketing and home business industries. After earning $ 1.8 million dollars in a home based business market in 31 months, she went onto build a 7-figure marketing and copywriting firm in just 20 months. Currently she runs one of the fastest growing training venues teaching beginners to experts how to really use the internet to it's fullest capacity.

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  • Leanne Ely says:

    Great post (as usual). My term “Menu-Mailer” for a subscription to my weekly menu plans, has been lifted and used so many times…it’s annoying. It’s one thing to copy what someone else is doing; it’s another thing to take their crafted words, logos or terminology!

  • Sandi this is a great post. I really appreciate you taking the time to outline this as I am sure most marketers are breaking the rules without even knowing they are. Added to my delicious account!

  • Rae & Mark says:


    I’m sure all this is a legal minefield, when all that’s really necessary is a bit of common sense – if you’re reasonable, then others tend to be to, and if they’re not, do you really want to promote their stuff or work with them anyway?

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