$3.5M Intellectual Property Mistake by the U.S. Postal Service

Even big companies can make intellectual property blunders!

Although I’m going to discuss a costly mistake by the U.S. Postal Service, similar mistakes are made by hundreds (probably thousands) of businesses every day!

In previous articles, I have discussed the importance of using images that you have obtained the right to use. This advice applies to everyone, from solo entrepreneurs to the largest companies in the world.

When designing a new stamp several years ago, the U.S. Postal Service used an image on a stamp that they did not have permission to use. That mistake resulted in a $3.5 Million judgment against the U.S. Postal Service.

In this situation, the U.S. Postal Service created a new stamp with a picture of the Statue of Liberty. If the postal service had used an image of the original Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, there would not have been any copyright problems because the image of the Statue of Liberty is in the public domain.

But, instead of using an image of the original Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the U.S. Postal Service used an image of a statue at the New York – New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. That statue is a work of art that differs from the original Statue of Liberty – and the owner of the copyright for the Las Vegas version sued the U.S. Postal Service for copyright infringement.

A judge recently ruled that the U.S. Postal Service had infringed the copyright of the Las Vegas statue and awarded the copyright owner $3.5 million.

Let this be a reminder that you must be careful when you use images in your business. Here are four ways to stay “safe” with your images:

  1. Create an image yourself by taking a photo or creating a graphical design on your computer. You are now the copyright owner of the new image.
  2. Hire someone to create the image. Be sure you have a written agreement clearly stating that you (or your company) own all intellectual property rights to the image created.
  3. Purchase the image from an image source. Many companies sell images for use in your business. When purchasing an image, check the rights you receive so you are able to use the image in the desired manner.
  4. Get permission from the copyright owner. Obtain permission in writing along with any restrictions on how you can use the image and what type of attribution to provide.

Be sure everyone on your team understands how to safely use images.

Would you like to connect with other entrepreneurs and get intellectual property tips and strategies? If yes, I invite you to join my Free Intellectual Property Community. It’s a great place to ask me questions (and get quick answers).

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