• ashlie major

Is your logo nail art illegal?

You’ve heard of counterfeit luxury goods, but have you heard of counterfeit nails? Nail artists and clients alike enjoy reproducing and wearing popular artwork and luxury logos on nails. However, the reproduction of copyrighted images or trademarked logos may be illegal.

Jenna Rennert of Vogue calls the sudden trend of logo nail art the “Balenciaga Effect.” According to Rennert’s Vogue article, the Balenciaga Effect began after models walked Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 runway show with the brand’s iconic “B” painted on fingertips. Ever since its display on the runway, luxury logo nail art has been making a comeback. And, after the close of September 2017 Fashion Week, the trend shows no sign of stopping. Mi-Anne Chan of Refinery29 explores the psychological motivations behind the Balenciaga Effect. Tobias Langner, Jennifer Schmidt, and Alexander Fischier in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing explains the actions behind a consumer that may have fallen in love with a certain brand. “They participate in brand communities, travel long routes to meet like-minded people at brand conventions, or even tattoo themselves with the label of their beloved brand.” Getting a stencil logo nail design of one’s favorite luxury logo is another way fashion enthusiasts show love and appreciation for their favorite brands.

Below are some examples of the luxury logo nail trend:

Though, without the proper permissions and licenses, this love and appreciation for brands expressed through nail art can be intellectual property infringement. Nils Montan, former Vice President and Senior Intellectual Property Counsel for Warner Bros warns that “[Reproducing proprietary images] is an infringement of copyright law, trademark law, and the law of unfair competition.” If an image is protected by copyright law, it is copyright infringement “in the sense that the characters belong to the studios that created and developed them and spent the money to make them the icons that they are.” In the case where an image, such as a logo, is protected by trademark law, a person or entity may have the impression that the logo was licensed by the intellectual property owner when it is not. In the words of Montan, “The law of unfair competition basically says you can’t reap where you didn’t sow. You didn’t create the images so you can’t make money off them.”

The good news is that trademark and copyright owners like Fendi and Balenciaga are unlikely to go after fans and enthusiasts for intellectual property infringement. As eloquently stated by Washington City Paper’s Cecil Adams, “they’d look like bullies [and] your pockets probably aren’t that deep.” Though, if you’re a nail technician worried about the legal implications of infringing on a brand’s copyright or trademark, you should seek a license from the intellectual property owner.

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