I designed some apparel for the swimmers at my high school, that was approved, which was going to be produced by my school's clothing manufacturing partner, but (long story short) the company was unable to make my design.

I found another company that has no relation to my school that can produce my apparel. I want to repurpose the apparel for the entire student body, take on this project by myself, and sell the apparel personally, but it contains my school's logo in the design. Would it be illegal to sell apparel to my fellow students if it has my school's logo on it and is not strictly approved or managed by my school? Does making a profit versus just selling them to break even change anything either? I go to a public school in the US by the way.

1 Answer 1


Using your school's logo is probably copyright infringement, assuming the logo's copyright has not expired (i.e., its author has been dead for for over 70 years or it was a work-for-hire work published over 95 years ago) and assuming the logo contains sufficient creative expression to qualify for copyright at all.

Moreover, it would likely also be trademark infringement (a right which will not be expired, as long as it is still in active use), since that school's logo is probably used in a trademark capacity to indicate the source of a good or service. Putting the logo on a product suggests it originates from (or is otherwise authorized by) the school, which it hasn't been.

A sale for commercial gain would weigh adversely against a fair-use copyright defense (per the "purpose and character of use" factor), while a break-even sale would probably be a more positive (or at least neutral) consideration toward fair use.

A zero-profit use does not help with the trademark violation, since "fair use" of a trademark is generally reserved only for commentary on the mark or brand, which is not what you're doing here. It is the mark owner's responsibility to enforce protection of their trademark, or else risk losing it for not helping defend the public from confusion about which goods are genuinely from the brand.

  • Well, the later is not totally true since non-profit use supports fair use w.r.t. copyright.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:21
  • @user6726 Yes, I agree and have edited.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:49

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