The Lowdown On Licensing: Your Guide To Copyright & Trademarks For Online Retail

Posted by Rick Levine on Jun 27, 2017 9:08:00 AM


One of the most important debates of the modern era concerns the limits and loopholes of intellectual property. This debate affects every type of business, and uniform retailers are no exception. When advertising your products online, you may not have time to create new images and descriptions. If the manufacturer or a third party already has these materials, shouldn’t you be able to use them? While this is often an option, you must be careful not to violate the owner's property rights. This starts by understanding exactly what those rights are, which means paying attention to:

The Difference between Trademarks and Copyright

Intellectual property takes many forms, but the two most important types for online retailers are trademarks and copyright:

  • Copyright applies to novels, poems, films, songs, and other literary and artistic works. It only lasts for a limited amount of time, usually until 70 years after the author or artist's death. If the creator’s identity is not known, it lasts until either 120 years after the work was created or 95 years after it was first published.
  • Trademarks are symbols, designs, words, and short phrases that identify the source of a product or service. Unlike copyright, a trademark lasts for as long as its owner continues to use it. It is not necessary to register a trademark, as common law grants exclusive use to the creators of commercial symbols.

Knowing the difference between trademarks and copyrights allows you to understand exactly what kinds of rights clients may have to an item. From there, you can get clear answers to questions like:

How can I tell if I am allowed to use an image on my website?

The answer to this question depends on your relationship to the owner. If the owner manufactures the uniforms that you are selling, you are allowed to use it in your marketing. If not, you may still be allowed to copy it if you plan to alter it significantly and use it for a new purpose. You may also be able to include it in informative or fact-based content, though you must be careful to present that content in an unbiased fashion. If none of these conditions apply, you can still use it if the owner explicitly gives you their permission.

How can I tell if I can use a copyrighted text?

As with images, the right to use a text depends on your relationship to the owner. If they manufacture the gear you sell, you may be able to use it if you give proper attribution. If not, you can still use it if your actions fall under "fair use." Use is “fair” if the content you create is unbiased and serves a research or educational purpose.


The better you understand intellectual property, the easier it is to take advantage of all the resources available to you as a retailer. To learn more about online uniform marketing, contact UniformMarket today.


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