Will I break any law by buying unlicensed merchandise of TV shows?
The Straits Times|January 18, 2022
Buying for personal use is fine generally but the scenario changes if you sell the goods
Dominic Low

As TV series Squid Game went viral last year, various businesses rode the global craze of the Netflix drama to market their goods and services. Squid Game-related merchandise, such as numbered T-shirts worn by characters in the series, were also sold online.

But Netflix subsequently applied to register “Squid Game” and the series’ logo as trademarks here in October last year.

What does this mean for fans of the TV series and businesses?

The Straits Times looks into whether buying or selling unlicensed merchandise contravenes any intellectual property laws.

Q What kind of intellectual property rights can a company have in relation to a TV show or film it produced? A A company can have copyright over the film or TV show episodes it created, including images of the scenes in the film or TV show, and over related works, such as costume designs.

The company can have trademark rights over the title or logo of the film or TV show. It may also have trademark rights over the names and images of the characters in the film or TV show.

Q What is a trademark?

A A trademark is a sign used to distinguish a business’ goods or services from those of others. It can be in many forms, such as words, shapes, colours or a combination of different elements.

Trademarks can include characters in a film, TV show or entertainment franchise that have distinctive designs, said lawyer Gretchen Su of Withers KhattarWong.

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