I have a clothing brand I've been working on (no official LLC yet, so I'm worried about any legal trouble). I've been doing full custom artwork for it mostly, but I've been working on a design that parodies the STP oil logo.

I know there is the 30-40% parody law in terms that a design must be changed, but can I legally sell an item that has a graphic of something that appears to be a parody, or could be traced back to the original?

Note: This will not be the logo of my LLC, I already have that in the queue for trademarking. This is simply a piece I want to pay homage to a logo that I really like.

(posted on Graphic Design Stackexchange, but was reccomenede to take it here.)

Thanks for the help!

1 Answer 1


The relevant law is trademark law. The basic question is whether the mark is identical or creates an unreasonable risk of confusion with the protected mark. There is no per se 30%-40% rule. I can imagine cases where changing a single letter in a long phrase turns a trademark violation into a parody or clearly different mark (see the Electric Company TV show). I can also imagine cases where changing a large part of the mark could still be infringing and confusingly similar.

A parody is protected on fair use grounds in copyright law (which could conceivably come into play since this is a derivative work but would be protected since it is a parody), but in trademark law the issue is that a parody is unlikely to be confused for the original.

Of course, at a fine grained level when one is looking at particular cases rather than general ideas, you would have to know which country's laws were involved, for example, where the goods would be sold.

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