If you do text-based designs for t-shirts, beware. There’s a lawyer out there by the name of James Lindon who’s just trademarked the common netspeak phrase OMFG, and he’s been sending Cease and Desist orders to anyone who has designed items with the letters OMFG printed on them. I had one of my designs removed from two sites, and Zazzle just deleted several pages of items from their marketplace. You can see the fallout here, and my reaction (which might be a bit on the coarse side) here
Trademarking of common words and phrases is starting to become a real problem for small-time designers like you and me. These people who register these trademarks don’t utilize trademark law in a defensive manner to protect their own “brand.” Rather, they use trademark law as an offensive weapon to wipe out competition. Basically an unscrupulous person can search an online marketplace for products printed with a popular phrase, get a trademark on that phrase, then force everyone else to remove their own products by threatening them with legal action. They tend to go after individuals like Ebay sellers and designers at print-on-demand outfits like Zazzle, Cafepress and perhaps even RedBubble. Why? Because many of us are doing this either as a hobby or to help make ends meet, and can’t afford the costs of fighting some jackass in court. The print-on-demand companies likely could afford a court fight on our behalf, but why bother when simply removing the “offending” products would be easier and a whole lot cheaper? Not that I’m faulting the companies, since I sign on to their programs knowing that for them, it’s all about their bottom line and not mine.
Which leaves myself and others waiting for the next wave of takedowns when some douche decides to trademark the words “and,” “the” and “or.” Just be on your guard, people. There are plenty of other trademark abusers out there waiting for their cut. If you haven’t been impacted yet, you probably will be in the future.