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Companies have trademarks on their logos. If I want to use their logos in my own production, I need permission to do so.

But if my production makes it clear that the use of the logo is only meant to refer to the company, wouldn't that fall under nominative fair use, and hence I don't need permission?

To make up an example on the spot, say I am in the smartphone market, and I want to create a commercial comparing my prices to that of my rivals, say Samsung and Apple.

Can I then in my commercial have an Apple logo and a Samsung logo along, and next to them list some average price for their phones?

Clearly then the use of the logo is there only to refer to Apple/Samsung and not to claim ownership over their logo in any way?

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  • If you wanted to refer to the company, you would use its name, not its logo.
    – user4657
    Nov 17, 2019 at 0:19
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    @Nij You might want both.
    – D M
    Nov 17, 2019 at 0:53

1 Answer 1

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A relevant case may be New Kids on the Block v. News Am. Pub., Inc., 971 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1992), outlining a three-part test for nominative fair use:

we hold that 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; [FN7] and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.

The footnote says:

Thus, a soft drink competitor would be entitled to compare its product to Coca-Cola or Coke, but would not be entitled to use Coca-Cola's distinctive lettering.

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  • Yet PepsiCo did use Coke's distinctive lettering (and trademark bottle shape) in its "Pepsi challenge" advertising campaigns.
    – phoog
    Dec 5, 2023 at 0:16
  • I don't know. Could be Coke didn't sue because that would have looked bad; any such lawsuit would have been highly publicized. Could be the lawyers decided there was a good possibility that the use of the logo in that case was reasonably necessary (the footnote is, after all, dicta.)
    – D M
    Dec 9, 2023 at 12:28

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