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Suns Gear: What’s the fine line between inspiration and copyright infringement?

Posted at 7:44 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 01:19:23-04

PHOENIX — The hype is just beginning in the Valley of the Sun. Everyone is excited for the NBA finals and with that comes an opportunity for many local artists to profit from the “Rally the Valley” movement.

But there’s a difference between using the Phoenix Suns as an inspiration versus counterfeiting and selling for profit.

“We’re all excited about the Suns, we’re really close, we almost smell the championship, but the best way to do it is by respecting what are the properties of other people,” said Marcos Garcia-Acosta, a business and trademark lawyer in Chandler.

He says it’s important to understand what copyright infringement means and how to avoid falling into something that can get you in legal trouble.

“The more original you can make your product the better. The closer you are to copy and pasting the creations or the property, the Phoenix Suns in this case, the more likely you'll get in trouble,” said Garcia-Acosta.

He says the Phoenix Suns own their name in English and Spanish, the logo, the jerseys, the player's images, the phrase "Rally the Valley" and many other products.

His advice is to make sure that what you’re selling is your original work, that you’re only using the Phoenix Suns, in this case, as an inspiration.

“Everyone loves the Phoenix Suns, right now especially. As long as you can make it your own and you can still tell it is the Phoenix Suns but it’s your own style that’s awesome, that’s art,” expressed Savannah Stiegal, a Phoenix artist.

Stiegal displays her paintings at Frida's Garden, a community art gallery event space in Phoenix.

At Frida’s Garden artists get business education and resources to make sure they’re informed about copyright laws.

“Artists need to be educated and know again right from wrong and that includes infringement, what’s infringement, and how to avoid it,” said Petra Fimbres.

Fimbres owns Frida’s Garden and says there are many creative ways out there to keep the “Rally the Valley” spirit going.

“If they want to paint all orange and purple, so be it, let them paint all orange and purple.”

Lawyer Garcia-Acosta advises if it’s not your original work don’t use it unless you obtain permission from the owner of the copywritten material.

It’s recommended to contact an attorney if you’re looking to launch a product for commercial purposes.

To verify registered trademarks, visit: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/search

For more information on copyright, visit: https://www.copyright.gov