Can you create a new and non-competitive product out of a recycled product without paying any usage or licensing fees to original manufacturer?

UPDATED: Jan 8, 2012

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Can you create a new and non-competitive product out of a recycled product without paying any usage or licensing fees to original manufacturer?

Even if the new product maintains the original art, logo or graphic design? Example: Taking a recycled, real NFL football, an NBA basketball and using the leather to create a briefcase or backpack. The new product would still have the original logos on the leather.

Asked on January 8, 2012 under Business Law, California


Jason Lau

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You almost certainly cannot do this.  The major issue here is the use of the trademarks. 

The holder of a trademark is given rights to control how the mark is used and to prevent others from using it.  This is so that consumers will have reassurance knowing the products come from that particular company.  What you are doing is substantially changing the product but leaving the trademarks on there.  Consumers will associate your new product with the trademark holders' and thereby create confusion as to where the product came from. 

In regards to the original artwork and design, I do not believe there is an issue of copyright infringement.  Once you legally obtain the original artwork, you have a right to resell the artwork, so long as you do not modify it and create a derivative work.  But once you do modify it to such an extent that it becomes substantially different, then the first sale doctrine does not apply and it will be considered copyright infringement. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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