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Using well-known brands to enhance your own brand or advertising message without explicit permission is a big no-no.

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It is tempting to offer a well-known, high-demand product as a prize for a contest or promotion, but it can get you into trouble. Implying indirectly that the supplier of the prize is a joint promoter and has approved or endorsed the use of their product in your promotion is a big no-no. WHY? This implied relationship is to your benefit – it may enhance your brand image, give additional credibility to the promotion and/or generate increased traffic or sales – but without the brand’s knowledge or approval, it’s ethically – and legally – wrong. Don’t do it.

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Many well-known brands and their products have contractual terms that can prevent their use for promotional purposes. A prime example would be tickets for major sporting and musical events. Also, read the contractual fine print. You may discover that tickets for these types of events are typically ‘non-transferable’ or ‘must be used by the purchaser of the tickets’. If a company purchases these tickets and then offers them as prizes or uses them as part of a promotion, it can be considered a ‘breach of contract’ and would be legally actionable. And yes the rules apply to you!

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There is also the matter of trademarks. Swooshes, apples and interlinked rings are all highly recognizable and powerful trademarks (we know you know who we’re talking about!) Unless you have an agreement with a brand, you are on legal thin ice when ‘piggy-backing’ on their product, name or trademark to further your brand or promotion. Just imagine finding your brand on a website or billboard without your knowledge! Scary thought!

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Failing to protect one’s trademark or allowing it to be used generically could have real consequences for a brand both legally and financially. In fact, it could mean the loss of all rights – so don’t take it personally if you receive a cease-and-desist letter. We hope you’d do the same.

This post is part of a series. See the others.

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