Why couldn't they show the Chanel logo on The Simpsons?
July 9, 2006 11:14 AM   Subscribe

What are the rules for using company logos in creative works? Specifically, why was Marge able to refer to Chanel many times in that one Simpsons episode while the logo was never fully visible?

In the Simpsons episode where Marge gets the Chanel dress really cheap, the Chanel name is never fully visible. The word is obscured by a tree, etc. This leads me to think that representing the logo would be a possible copyright violation.

I also remember the McDonald's logo being represented in a very angular version (rather than the normal curvy logo) on the show.

Why is it permissible to have a character talk about Walmart but not permissible to show the complete Walmart logo?

Can anyone explain the rules to me in a simple way?
posted by benrodian to Law & Government (3 answers total)
to give a short entirely incomplete answer to only part of your question: you can get away with certain otherwise infringing uses, if your use qualifies as parody.
posted by ab3 at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2006

and. "short and entirely incomplete."
posted by ab3 at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2006

Best answer: While parody is entitled to heightened protection, the Simpsons episode wasn't really "parody" but a reference to a brand name. This would properly be analyzed under Judge Kozinski's test in New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing, Inc., 971 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1992):
[A] commercial user is entitled to a nominative fair use defense provided he meets the following three requirements: First, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the mark or marks may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.
My guess is that gratuitous use of the logo would compromise the second prong of the test. The mere mention of the "Chanel" brand is sufficient to create the identification; anything more would be commercial appropriation.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2006

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