BMW, MINI, Cafepress, and us

Stumbled over this interesting / surprising thread on NorthAmericanMotoring, started by Mini Bee / Jack who I met at Mickey & MINI this year, enjoyed the MM3 video he created, and have some of his wonderful products, like this great T-shirt:

Jack starts off the thread back in October, saying:
BMW just issued a cease and desist for almost every design in my CafePress store … previously their guidelines stated the designs could not have the word “MINI” … now they have decided to change the guidelines to include use of images of MINIs

Of course he and all NAM readers were upset with the apparently heavy-handedness of BMW lawyers (reminiscent of 2003), and shocked that BMW would try to claim that even the IMAGE of a MINI is unacceptable!
Read on through the thread, though, and Jack writes:
I called the attorney representing BMW in this issue and he had someone call me back the same day. He was very polite and willing to listen to my concerns … he admitted they have not seen the designs so he asked me to send the designs to him for review. No guarantees this will change anything but I was very pleased they were willing to listen …

And finally, a somewhat reasonable outcome:
I just spoke to the BMW attorney to go over the guidelines. It’s official…nearly all the designs in my store will be available again after some work by me and COOPERation … I have to remove the bmw word marks from all titles and descriptions (mini, mini cooper, bmw) … on the owner’s club designs the faux MINI wings at the top of the current design will have to be removed …
I’m still a little shocked at the pleasant resolution of this issue. I was optimistic but this result has exceeded my expectations …

Although, it’s somewhat crazy that BMW / MINI continue to ban all use of the four letters M-I-N-I! If you’re thinking of selling any MINI-related product, it’s probably worth checking out the BMW CafePress guidelines page that Jack links to, which says (partly):
No use of any BMW group logos, including but not limited to … MINI Wings Logo
No use of any BMW group word marks, including but not limited to … MINI, Mini Cooper, Mini United (see how they “sneak” lower case “mini” in to their list?)
If the item bears an image of BMW Group vehicle, whether a photograph or drawing, it can only be sold if the image does not focus on any BMW Group logo …
BMW clubs or members may not sell club related or BMW merchandise …

While these are CafePress restrictions, you’ve got to think that next, BMW might push these rules further in to the community – what will that mean for the various major MINI events (like MOTD, AMVIV, MOT)?

15 thoughts on “BMW, MINI, Cafepress, and us

  1. They’ve been asking people to remove images of MINIs from commercial products since 2002 – this isn’t new. It just takes the BMW’s law firm awhile to get around to find everything out there in the vast corners of the web.

  2. Personally I have no problem with and have never used the word “MINI in any of my designs. That being said… I do use “M NI” on a few of my old shirts. In place of the 1st “I” I have a birds eye view of a MINI. Never heard wether that is a no no or not. But it could be guilt by association.

    A long time ago I went to the MINIUSA website and learned about the non usage of the word, it’s your responsibility as a producer or designer of products to do this. My concern is BMW might suggest that the image of the car be banned but not sure how they could do that? But who has the $$$’s to fight BMW?

    I’m a bit confused by the page titled “Trademark Education” under “Acceptable Images” there is a design that uses a classic Mini and the words “idrive – a mini” can that be correct? Can “E36” or “R56” be used? On another image the word “cooper” is used? Did Cafe Press screw up or did BMW tell them it’s OK? Can you have the logo on your images of the car? If not does that mean a photographer has to erase that from his photos?

    Can MINILICIOUS or similar words be banned? Can my design with the top view of a MINI as the letter “I” and the letters “M INI” be banned? Will SoCal MINI Maniacs be next?

    Like you said Ian can MOT or MOTD or AMVIV be illegal? Since BMW must know about these events I assume the Charity type events are possibly OK as they have been around for a while. I do wonder about events like the Dragon and A MINI Vacation In Vegas which, as far as I know, don’t put money into a charity cause. Maybe they do and I just missed that?

    Can the use of the word or logo be used on a blog that doesn’t sell any MINI products be banned… GPMINI, GBMINI, My MINI Adventures, DCMINI, UKPylot’s MINI Blog, The MINI Adventures of Chris and Jax, MINIOLOGY?

    I found a old classic MINI logo used for the classic “S” in a clip art book that both Motoring Badges and I use on a product. I presume the company that produced the book researched it, I hope, but if I have to pull it it’s no big deal.

    Why doesn’t a website like MotoringFile, obviously they know people, ask BMW to make it totally clear and post BMW’s rules on Gabe’s website? I think it would be a nice departure from some of the mind numbing posts covering the same subject and give, some of his readers, something else to be rude about. Seems Bridger.US that became MotoringFile used to do more fun stuff like that a long time ago. They discussed designs of shoes, watches and so on not just the car. Seems like the website is on auto flight now. I loved the debate about the tent that could be used with the boot and the colour debates that used to happen… But I digress from the subject at hand.

    As long as I can use the image of the MINI or Mini I’m OK with that. To those who whine about not being able to use the words… get a grip it’s not your company!

    My thoughts. Thanks for posting this Ian. Hey did ya get a dupe key for the GP at the Cull Mansion in FL? 😉

    RB

  3. I got a canned warning from cafepress as well, simply because bmw was in one of the tags of one of the shirts.
    Frankly, if you’ve created the graphic yourself, or taken the photo yourself, it should be your property and you should be able to do what you want with it, so long as it doesn’t duplicate their trademarked logo. But I don’t see how they could possibly enforce an image of the car.

  4. Gabe,

    Seems that the Cafe Press Guidelines don’t seem to jive with what you are saying, “They’ve been asking people to remove images of MINIs from commercial products since 2002”. They [Cafe Press] show car images on the page titled “Acceptable Images”. Is this in error? You use the image of MINIs on your MotoringFile Official Products page in the “Chicago Spring Drive” cards is this OK?

  5. I’m hoping that the image issue is fine so long as you are considerate of “if the image does not focus on any BMW Group logo”. So no close-ups of the logo?

  6. RB – I have no idea about Cafepress and what they do in regards to copyright violations mentioned above… but I know BMW’s lawyers have been asking people to remove the word MINI (and images of MINIs) from commercial products since 2002.

  7. > Why doesn’t a website like MotoringFile, obviously they know people, ask BMW to make it totally clear and post BMW’s rules on Gabe’s website?

    It’s just the standard copyright issue that companies have been battling for years. Nothing new.

    > I think it would be a nice departure from some of the mind numbing posts covering the same subject and give, some of his readers, something else to be rude about. Seems Bridger.US that became MotoringFile used to do more fun stuff like that a long time ago. They discussed designs of shoes, watches and so on not just the car.

    If you’d like to write content for the site (or know someone who does) be my guest. I don’t have time to write unless you have some pill that duplicates me two or three ways.

    > Seems like the website is on auto flight now. I loved the debate about the tent that could be used with the boot and the colour debates that used to happen… But I digress from the subject at hand.

    There are plenty of debates on there. Maybe things have just moved on to things you personally don’t find interesting. Our logs prove that more people than ever find them quite interesting though

  8. Gabe,

    Don’t really want to high jack this post to answer your other answers but on subject…

    I never knew copyright infringement covers the image of the vehicle. How can that be? So photographers need to get approval to show their photos of a MINI or a Ferrari or a Porsche or a Chevy… racing or whatever? And you have approval for your post card or are you just waiting for them to catch you?

    If the story above is true:

    “Jack writes:

    I called the attorney representing BMW…

    And finally, a somewhat reasonable outcome:
    I just spoke to the BMW attorney to go over the guidelines. It’s official…nearly all the designs in my store will be available again after some work by me and COOPERation … I have to remove the bmw word marks from all titles and descriptions (mini, mini
    ” and so on.

    According to that statement by this Jack fellow it must be OK to show the image. They can’t say it’s OK to show the car for one and not approve the image for others. Now maybe he had to remove the logo or something. So you say it’s just a copyright issue but it seems they are customizing it and there are a lot of issues involved. If we are to believe this is all true.

    I think my thought that the “Most influential MINI website in the world” ,your words, could get all this clarified for us less influential sellers of MINI products would be a good addition to your website makes sense to me. I thought it was a compliment. Your website makes money off the fortunate ones who get to advertise on your site so if BMW comes down on them you could loose clients. I think it would be a feather in your cap.

    The issue might not be popular with some on your site but then again it would give “some” the forum to spew anew.

    So how long would it take you to send off an email to Jim, or any of the other big guys you know, over in New Jersey and find out the full story?

    As far as my statements about your site… don’t get me wrong MF is still the best damn MINI website out there, I visit every AM, I myself direct a multitude of MINI owners to your site at MINI events, SCMM runs and so on, but it seems… well I digress, again.

  9. >I never knew copyright infringement covers the image of the vehicle. How can that be? So photographers need to get approval to show their photos of a MINI or a Ferrari or a Porsche or a Chevy… racing or whatever? And you have approval for your post card or are you just waiting for them to catch you?

    Yes copyright can cover artwork that depicts the vehicle. Obviously the key thing here to get lawyers involved is that you generally have to be selling a product for profit.

    Yes I have approval for the post card. MINI used it on their website 3-4 years ago and in turn I asked if I could offer it to anyone who wanted to buy it form my Cafepress store. BTW I make no money on that card – it’s sold at the lowest price possible. The only one who makes money is cafepress.

  10. My question then is this… How can it be a case by case approval process, Legally that is? I Understand that BMW, as the 1000 LB gorilla in the room, can do whatever it wants but legally it’s doesn’t seem correct. I guess if pushed they [BMW] could just shut down all of us. As far as your card goes what’s the point if you make no profit? Goodwill? I do make a profit on all I sell but maybe I have just been lucky as far as them finding me.

    I am going to try and contact them as I have 5 new designs that I was going to produce this January. I think it would be good to find out what’s allowable, what’s not so I can publish that on my website for others to know what they are up against.

  11. >My question then is this… How can it be a case by case approval process, Legally that is? I Understand that BMW, as the 1000 LB gorilla in the room, can do whatever it wants but legally it’s doesn’t seem correct. I guess if pushed they [BMW] could just shut down all of us. As far as your card goes what’s the point if you make no profit? Goodwill? I do make a profit on all I sell but maybe I have just been lucky as far as them finding me.

    Yup – 100% goodwill.

  12. I had a CafePress store up for our Summer Splash event the last 2 years, and had to take it down just before the 08 event due to these copywrite infringement issues. And, it was sponsored by a MINI dealer! When the lawyers found that out, and got a few emails from friends at HQ, the issue was resolved – only after the wording and images were changed. In place of having a “MINI MEET”, for example, we had a “Motoring Meet”. Fine – anyway you like it. No problem.

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