My last Fail Campaign Friday post Local Town T-Shirts promised a follow up t-shirt campaign so here it is! This post is about a quick shirt design that ended up losing me over $400 over an infringement claim.
On April 8th of 2014 a wrestling hero from my past, The Ultimate Warrior, passed away. Now I can’t even begin to tell you about how much my friends and I were into professional wrestling when we were younger. Literally every t-shirt we owned featured a wrestler (aside from the obligatory Dragonball Z t-shirt of course), walls were covered with posters of Wrestlers, we attended tons of live events, watched every Pay-Per-View, etc. My friends and I had stuffed pillow like dolls to the right that we would practice wrestling slams with. My best friend actually got a full size Wrestlefest arcade machine for his birthday one year, his parents were pretty much the best obviously.
So the morning after the passing of one of my childhood heroes I decided to launch a shirt campaign. Now I want to be clear that I think in an event such as a death of a public figure you can be trashy and you can be classy. I would never try to profit off a death by making false claims like “He died for you by a shirt for him” or try and trick people into thinking the money is going to a fund or his family. Personally I don’t find anything wrong with promoting products that may be of a higher interest during a passing of someone. I do however think that you shouldn’t embellish on negative things. As a similar example when another Wrestler passed away people were making shirts with his face on it and said “Don’t do Cocaine” and the likes. That is pretty trashy in my opinion and I wouldn’t endorse such actions.
So I basically made a quick design with a virtual assistant I was working with. It was the outline of the facepaint the wrestler would wear with the words “Warriors Always Believe”. Now I don’t really remember this being a huge tagline or anything but I remember hearing a few times in videos.
Promoting the Product
To promote the shirt I launched a quick facebook and promoted a single post as you can see below. I was getting $0.01 costs per engagement and I think I ended up spending like $100 promoting the first page post that garnered about 3,000 page likes.
I then promoted the T-Shirt
Promoting the shirt cost more money that I expected but I was still turning a profit.
Ultimately in the 7 day t-shirt campaign I ended up selling like 65 T-Shirts at $20 a piece.
The Campaign Ends
So the campaign was about over and I was looking at earning in the $700 range and I had spent about $400 total in advertising. I literally had like 4 hours left on the campaign and I got an email from TeeSpring stating that the campaign was suspended because of a trademark violation and all orders would be cancelled.
The Cease & Desist
Now I am no stranger to getting cease and desists (C&Ds) and over the years I have gotten pretty good at understanding what you can legally can and can’t do when it comes to this sort of stuff. I’ve had my fair share of digital millennium copyright act (DMCA) requests that I have fought with legal help or adhered to take downs when they were warranted. The important thing to note is that just because someone thinks you did something wrong, doesn’t mean you actually did. Unfortunately Tee Spring had just shown me that they didn’t give a crap about their affiliates and just axed my campaign without even a call.
Now I want to be clear that Tee Spring did what I would expect a giant corporation to do. They got a general request in from the Ultimate Warrior’s licensing company who made a broad bullshit claim about trademark violations and threatened to sue, so Tee Spring axed a bunch of campaigns. What Tee Spring probably should have done was pickup the phone or send an email and let people who had open campaigns (especially those with sales) and straighten things out. I haven’t run a campaign with TS since because it pissed me off so much.
Now I asked for a copy of the C&D (which they refused to give me) and tried making my case which they didn’t care about. They were kind enough to give me the licensing company’s information that complained though. Tee Spring also gave me the recommendation “Well if you are not in any violation just relaunch the campaign”… These guys know the affiliate model and at the time would candidly speak with you about how to avoid trademark issues, yet they showed zero remorse for the $400 in ad spend I just ate because their legal team didn’t have the balls to spend 15 seconds and listen to me and make an educated decision.
Let’s Talk About Trademarks
I am well aware of the risks of violating a trademark (I mention this in my previous t-shirt posts) and before I launch anything I do a robust search in the governments handy dandy Trademark Electronic Search System. This tool by the United States Patent & Trademark Office makes it really easy to find out what is trademarked and for what uses.
Please keep in mind that a trademark has to specify uses. As an example “Ultimate Warrior” is a valid trademark for entertainment purposes (specifically in professional wrestling). This means they have the right to use the wording “Ultimate Warrior” in those specific instances. However that same use trademark does not necessarily mean that it protects “Ultimate Warrior” from being the name of a food product or something of another nature beyond what is specified in the approved trademark.
You can see in the images below that there are trademarks for the “Ultimate Warrior” which do not call out clothing at all. Most likely they attempted to get this trademark and were rejected. So although they do have a case for “Ultimate Warrior” not being on a shirt they cannot claim ownership of “Warrior” which is what my shirt says. They further claim that they own the trademark to the face paint image when in fact the only trademark on the list that had any relation to my shirt’s facepaint image is an expired/dead trademark. That specific trademark had an illustration of the Ultimate Warrior on it and could be deemed that the drawing on his face could hold trademark relevance over my image…but oh wait, it’s an expired/dead trademark so that is irrelevant. Unless you live in the make believe world of laws that Ultimate Creations (the Ultimate Warrior’s licensing company) and Tee Spring live in.
Let’s Try Not To Repeat Mistakes
In an effort to never have this happen again. I tried talking to Steve from Ultimate Creations. Steve was quick to try and threaten and belittle me. “Why would you want to exploit someone’s death”. Let me clarify that Steve has zero problems exploiting someone’s death, he just wants to make sure that he is the one making the money off it and related topics not you.
Below are a few screenshots from our conversations. You can clearly see that as I pushed to actually get the trademark ID # to lookup it turns out they don’t have a trademark they have a Service Mark. This is very different than a trademark as I say to them in the emails which they then just stop responding to. Clearly it was an absolute B.S. C&D they were trying to enforce by threatening corporations over a trademark they don’t even actually hold.
So Steve basically now says they own a Service Mark not a Trade Mark….ugh. There is a large difference between SM & TM. To makes claims that you own a TM when you actually have a SM are two very different beasts. Clearly this guy didn’t know what he was talking about and was just trying to scare people away.
Would I Work With Tee Spring Again?
Although I was really upset at the time of this happening I do still think they have a pretty solid program over at Tee Spring and can imagine myself working with them in the future if I ever saw the opportunity to sling some more tees. I was definitely not a power seller in the tee-shirt arena it was just an area I was experimenting on an Aff Playbook 30 Day Follow Along (Forum Members can go search for Mike’s 27 Day Challenge to see all my shirt designs).
As mentioned earlier I understand from a compliance/risk perspective why Tee-Spring cancelled this campaign on me. I was just really upset that they had been pitched as the affiliate friendly place and when I needed some support beyond a ‘change this color’ request, they didn’t really care.
More Tee Shirts
Did you see my last post Fail Campaign Friday: Local Town Shirts ?