Intellectual Property: What you need to know for your Print on Demand business

Intellectual Property: What you need to know for your Print on Demand business

This precautionary article is about the possibility that an innocent cellphone case shop or tshirt business could easily get into trouble, particularly at the beginning of their print on demand journey. Because certain images, logos and mascots can be very difficult to protect,

One day (in 2019), an budding entrepreneur had an original idea to create a design derivative that was similar to the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette. His adaptation was applied to a few products, which began selling. The cease and desist letter was sent by Disney to the merchant who had profited from their intellectual properties (IP) shortly after. However, the owner kept his business open, which led to a lawsuit against “the most magical place in the world” (

This blog exists to ensure that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation.

Safety Checklist –

This blog should not be interpreted as legal advice. It is meant to provide general information and help. This data can be quite dense so here is a checklist to ensure that any print-on demand merchant’s business plans do not become infringed by IP.

  1. Understand the Common Types Of IP: There is a lot to know about the IP categories that can impact the merchants’ ability to use it properly.
  2. Use the Public Domain: Anyone can use this zone for commercial profit.
  3. Get a free web search If you have any doubts about an idea’s validity, it is easy to find out.
  4. Properly Adapting Material: Be aware of what is legal before you put your business’ reputation behind it.
  5. Accept Other Restrictions:Just cause something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean that it’s okay.

01. Learn the Common Types Of IP

IP can be described as any non-physical invention, process, idea, or information owned by a individual. Important part is that these immaterial, but very real assets can be purchased, sold, transferred and treated otherwise as normal products.

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Many people believe there is little to no difference between trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Although there are many similarities, each variation has its own regulations and capabilities.

These are the most popular types of intellectual property:


This designation is responsible for encouraging commercialization of technological innovation. The public is officially informed about the work of an inventor, designer, or creator when they receive a patent. It can then be used (or improved upon) by the public, with certain privileges being extended to its creator. Patents have a downside: their implementation is time-consuming, complex, and costly.


These are trademarks that have been protected for centuries. They don’t need to be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark office. Registration is not required. A trademark is a broad, general security for a brand. It can include words, names, symbols or sounds that an individual company can identify.



These are similar trademarks but more geared towards protecting artistic, musical and literary works. A book company could trademark its name and copyright all books they produce. If a business intends to sue another entity for profiting from copied work, they must copyright the work.


Trade Secret

It is any potentially dangerous information employees might acquire while working for a company. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have been used in the past, but not always, to prevent the spread and dissemination of mission-critical information.

02. Utilize Public Domain

Public Domain is a lovely term that describes a state in which an idea, concept, character, or design is the property of everyone. This means that all of the content can be used by the entire world for commercial purposes.

Baz Luhrmann was allowed to film the 1996 version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (starring young Leonardo DiCaprio), through the lense of a mafia gangwar. Because Shakespeare’s timeless works are long in the public domain.

This could lead to problems if the merchant uses designs that aren’t originals. People should make everything by themselves to avoid problems. Things will not develop into problems if they are completely new. It’s better to know than not.

03. A Free Web Search

Even if you play straight, it is possible to be infringed. It’s good to have the ability to search for questionable names, titles, products, etc. to check if this definition is in use. This is a great way for businesses to discover if they have any unusual or unwanted associations with the name.

It’s easy to find the official databases. These databases are worth searching as any encroachment could lead to unfavorable outcomes.

Trademarks and patents are easily identified at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office or the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Canadian Copyright Database, and the United States Copyright Office can be used to search for registered copyrights.

04. Correctly adapt material

Human ingenuity cannot be completely stifled by the powers that are. We will always have room to adapt, joke about, belittle and superimpose others’ works, such as the widespread modification of Keep calm and keep the slogan.

There are many ways to make a patentable idea a successful product.

There are several ways to give a fresh (and legal!) spin :

  • Anything that is in the public domain can be considered okay
  • All political figures, all national flags, and all universal symbols are fair game
  • You must first get permission to use photos of another person.
  • Use only direct quotes from authors who have died in the last 70 years

Here are some points to consider when avoiding certain approaches.

  • Use popular fictional characters such as superheroes or 007, but not fictitious ones.
  • Keep away from celebrity gossip
  • Avoid using or parodying big brands
  • Although memes are funny and entertaining, they can be dangerous.
  • There are many restrictions so it is important to do your research before backing any design or concept.

05. Limits to Creativity

Merchants will often come up with new ideas for merchandise as they expand their commercial potential. This is because people are familiar with things they have seen, heard, loved, experienced, shared, and so forth.

When a merchant bases a product’s design, text, or art on intellectual property from another person, they must go to sufficient lengths in order to make the original piece completely different according to the law. Some print-on-demand products, particularly t-shirts, are known for copying trademarked content.

It is important to keep in mind that not all content can be printed, even if it does not overlap with other parties’ IP. Below is a list of Printify guidelines for product ideas.

Limits to IP

If a brand begins to take off financially, it is important to have the IP rights. This concept is so important to capitalism, it was included in the Constitution of the United States of America in 1790.


Since then, things have changed. Disney has been an integral part in IP’s evolution. He fronted an extensive campaign that sought to extend copyright licensing rights throughout the entire IP. This was done to protect the original Mickey Mouse form, and delay the rodent’s public debut until 2024. It had been published almost 100 years ago (in 1928).

Once the character is released, entrepreneurs can create their steamboat interpretation, or even transform it into their own IP. They will be able to make a lot of money from merchandise sales and live happily ever after.


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