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SEMA Show and Your Business’ Intellectual Assets: Using Artwork and Photographs in Your SEMA Show Booth and Literature (Part 4 of 4)

SEMA Show 2016, Las Vegas Convention Center

Welcome to part four of our series on protecting your business’ intellectual assets at the Specialty Equipment Management Association (SEMA) Show. Part one dealt with what to do when you find counterfeits of your product at the SEMA Show. Part two dealt with protecting your new product launch at the SEMA Show. Part three dealt with how and why to protect your brand identifiers at the SEMA Show. This fourth and final part deals with using artwork and photographs in your SEMA Show booth and literature.

Let’s face it, flashy attractive artwork makes a huge difference when it comes to attracting attention at any trade show, not just at the SEMA Show. Brightly colored designs, exciting photographs and cool logos can help draw buyers to your booth to learn more about your products. On the other hand, any artwork or photographs you use at the SEMA Show are subject to copyright law. Failing to understand the copyright ramifications of using artwork and photographs at the SEMA Show can have serious consequences for your business.

On the next pages are some things you should think about while preparing your SEMA Show booths and literature. Make Sure You Own the Copyright

When an artist develops a new piece of artwork, or a photographer takes a picture, that artist owns the copyright to that artwork. Technically, this means that you cannot use that artwork or photo without violating the artist’s/photographer’s copyright. The artist or photographer can assign the copyright to your company, allowing you to use the artwork or photo. However, unless and until an assignment is made, your use of artwork or photos at the SEMA Show can subject you to a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Copyright laws apply to any number of items used at the SEMA Show from photos to product displays to artwork used in brochures and catalogs. Unfortunately, many companies fail to secure copyright assignments to artwork and photos used at the SEMA Show prior to attending the Show.

Don’t risk subjecting your company to a copyright infringement lawsuit based on unauthorized use of artwork or photos at the SEMA Show. Carefully review all artwork and photos you plan to use in your booth and on your literature prior to the Show to ensure that you own the copyright.

Avoid Using Stock Photos and Clip Art

Related to the issue of copyright ownership are stock photos and clip art. These professional images can be purchased from any number of online resources. However, using these images in your booth or on your literature at the SEMA Show comes with significant risks.

Many stock photo and clip art distributors do not permit using their images for commercial purposes (such as in a trade show display or a product catalog). Others will only allow use of their images for commercial purposes if you pay for a premium subscription. Using stock photos or clip art at the SEMA Show without permission to do so can expose your company to cease and desist letters, demands for royalty payments, and in some instances, even lawsuits for copyright infringement. Some retailers of stock photos and clip art are notorious for their aggressive monitoring and enforcement on this front.

Don’t risk subjecting your company to liability for copyright infringement because you used stock photos or clip art at the SEMA Show without permission. Avoid using stock photos or clip art whenever possible. If you have to use a stock photo or a piece of clip art, carefully review the distributor’s terms and conditions to ensure that your purchase includes the right to use the image for commercial purposes.

Find a few more things to think about in preparation for the SEMA Show on the next page.

Make Sure You Have Releases from Any People Depicted in Photographs

As individuals, we all have a right of publicity to prevent other from using our name, image, or likeness without our permission. For instance, I cannot take a picture of you and, without your permission, use that picture to promote my products. Failing to obtain permission from someone to use their image at the SEMA Show can result in a lawsuit for violating that individual’s right to publicity.

Don’t risk subjecting your company to a lawsuit for violating someone’s right to publicity. Make sure that you have permission from anyone whose picture you intend to use in your booth or in your literature at the SEMA Show. These individuals can include models, customers, employees, and independent contractors.

Consider Applying for Copyright Registrations

While it is important to ensure that your use of artwork and photographs at the SEMA Show does not violate someone else’s intellectual property rights, just as important is protecting your own intellectual property rights. You would not want someone using a photo or a piece of artwork that you own to promote their products without your permission.

While a copyright technically exists from the moment the photo is taken, or the artwork produced, registering your copyright with the U.S. Government provides significant protections. Once registered, you can sue for statutory damages if and when someone uses your copyrighted photo or artwork without permission. These statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per copy made.

Before exhibiting at the SEMA Show, you should evaluate all of the artwork and images you intend to use in your booth and on your literature. Copyright registrations should be applied for on all key artwork and images prior to exhibiting at the SEMA Show. Doing so will give you the option to file suit if and when someone decides to use your copyrighted image to promote their products at the SEMA Show or after.

Understanding and addressing the copyright  ramifications of using artwork and photos at the SEMA Show can save you time, money, and aggravation during and after the Show. Don’t be the company that receives a cease and desist letter, or a demand for money from a copyright holder whose artwork or photo you used without permission. If you haven’t already addressed the intellectual property rights to the artwork and photos you are using at the SEMA Show, we urge you to contact an attorney of your choosing immediately to discuss your options and formulate a plan.

This concludes our four part series on protecting your intellectual assets at the SEMA Show. We hope you found the information provided pertinent and useful for your business. We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you have about any of the information presented in this series. You can also visit us at our SEMA Show booth (Performance Pavilion Booth No. 50120) for more information.

Part 1 – Aug. 15 –  What to Do When You Find Counterfeits of Your Products at the SEMA Show

Part 2 – Aug. 23 – Protecting Your New Product Launch

Part 3 – Sep. 6 – Protecting Your Trademarks and Brand Identifiers at the SEMA Show

Part 4 – Sep. 12 –  Using Artwork and Photographs in Your SEMA Show Booth and Literature

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