So heres a blog post I didn't imagine I would be writing, but here we are.
Two days ago I received an email telling me that I was commiting a trademark infringement, I was pretty shocked, as its something I am very concious of so I couldn't think what I might have done.
When I found out what it was I was more than a bit shocked by it, yes its something I was doing (and it turns out I was doing it a lot), and it was something I thought I was doing in a perfectly legal way, but I was very wrong.
So by now you are wondering what it could be, and thats where it might get a bit tricky for me to explain...without saying the thing that I'm not allowed to say.
So, this trademark infringement is to do with the sustainable materials that are used to make my card sets (and a number of the ranges I stock). Its an internationally recognised standard for sustainable materials sourced from forests, with a 3 letter logo with a tree. You will have seen it on paper and wood products.
The printers I use for my card sets have the certification, and the paper they use to print my cards is also certified so every pack of cards carries the symbol which is all absolutely fine and above board and won't be changing. The problem comes with me telling you that they are certified, I am not allowed to write on my website descriptions that they are *** certified as I don't have permission to use that trademark.
Now I don't know about you but I was pretty surprised by that information, I had always thought that all I was doing was passing on the information about what materials had been used. I have never said I was certified, only that the product was made with those materials. I didn't realise that it was any different to talking about any other material.
Well it turns out that is not allowed, unless you have a chain of custody certification or a promotional license you cannot use any of their trademarks when talking about products that you sell. (I will add links below for more info about all of this).
Instead you will need to say something like 'made from sustainable materials'.
This applies not only to my range that I have printed, but also to other items that I stock from other businesses.
So, what does this mean going forward...well to be honest not much is changing, and honestly if I wasn't writing this post I doubt any one would even have noticed. I will continue to use these sustainable certified materials and companies, and I will continue to source products made as sustainably as possible as its something that I believe passionately about. When I write my descriptions or talk about the materials used I will switch to using the term sustainable instead of specifically mentioning those 3 letters.
You might be wondering why am I writing this blog? well I spent the last couple of days freaking out about all of this and worrying about what might happen, I have spent most of yesterday running through my website and removing all mentions of those three letters and changing descriptions (turns out it was mentioned on 150 pages), and I also spent some time looking at other websites and looking for various companies on their database. It turns out that like me lots of people mention the use of this certified material in their products, and as far as I can see most of them don't have certification or licensing which means they are using the trademark illegally. I decided that I would write a post telling you about my experience and give you a chance to make changes before you also receive that scary infringement email. So please do send this on to your small business pals. Feel free to pop me an email if anything is unclear and you want to chat it through with someone, I am not an expert, but I am happy to help wherever I can.
I am hoping I have hinted enough at what certification I am referring to, but if you haven't worked it out now, heres a link to their website https://uk.fsc.org
You can find info about their trademarks and their use on this link. https://uk.fsc.org/use-the-fsc-trademarks