Little Hippie’s policy on reporting Grateful Dead trademark infringements and FAQ on how intellectual property and licensing work

What is an intellectual property infringement?
When a party uses the intellectual property of another party without permission and/or compensation.

Who do we report to Grateful Dead Productions for copyright infringements?

  1. If you use our art, we will report you.
  2. If you don’t, we look the other way. We probably didn’t even notice you in the first place.

What do we consider our Grateful Dead art?
Anytime we build on a Grateful Dead icon, create an illustration from or incorporate icons, or put our own take on an icon, that is our artwork. We do not consider the original Grateful Dead icons our art nor do we take any part in protecting the original icons against infringement.

Where can you find our art?
If you’re unsure what Grateful Dead art is ours, you can find a lot of it in Taylor’s portfolio at taylorswope.com. You can also look through the pages here at Little Hippie where you’ll find more of Taylor’s artwork plus artwork created by and in collaboration with her friends. If another artists creates work for Little Hippie, we offer that artist the same commitment to protecting their work against copying as we do Taylor’s. Please note, Little Hippie has been in business since 2002 and licensed with Grateful Dead since 2004, so not all of our art is currently on either site.  

How can we call it our artwork if it includes Grateful Dead logos?
Because that is how licensing works. Grateful Dead provides us the right to use their logos in our artwork in exchange for paying them royalties. Every piece of art we produce goes through Grateful Dead Productions for approval, and that approval process includes adding their legal line to our artwork and the products on which we print it.

What is a legal line?
It is the copyright and/or trademark notice found in small print in our artwork. For example, TM & © [year] GDP.

Why does a legal line matter?
This legal line indicates the artwork is property of Grateful Dead Productions. It is their responsibility to protect the artwork and the products on which it’s printed against unauthorized use and/or reproduction. If they do not enforce their copyrights and trademarks, they can not charge licensees for the use of their name, likeness, and logo. Without legal lines and intellectual property law, the whole system breaks down.  

Why does it matter if Grateful Dead maintains licensing?
Grateful Dead is what’s referred to as an “evergreen property." In licensing terms, that means it never goes out of style and licensors can expect to collect royalties from licensees well in to the future. These royalties in turn pay overhead on band management and provide a steady income to band members and their families meanwhile continuing to release vault recordings for you. The members of Grateful Dead have both the right and the privilege to protect their legacy and pass it down to their progeny.


Why does it matter if people use our Grateful Dead art?
Besides the fact that is our livelihood, it is also an asset in which we are heavily invested. In addition to the time put in to creating the artwork in the first place, we have also paid Grateful Dead for the right to reproduce it. Not only do we pay royalties quarterly, we are under contract to pay significant minimum royalties annually, and anyone using our art for profit directly effects our ability to do so.

Who have we reported?
Most of the people we’ve reported have been fly by night on demand printers. They build shell websites with no contact info and promote their knockoff products through Instagram and Facebook ads using mocked up images of our art on various t shirts. If you actually receive a shirt you order through such a website (many never ship at all), you will be disappointed by the quality. You might even think it was us who made that item, and you might penalize our reputation for having made a shoddy good we in fact did not make. For that reason, intellectual property law exists. It is the law in place to protect a brand against exactly this scenario.

We have never reported an Etsy seller, handmade crafter nor any lot vendors.

Examples of posts we have reported:

Why does it seem like a lot of unlicensed vendors are getting shut down this year?
Because Rhino Entertainment, the entity that manages Grateful Dead Productions, recently stepped up their efforts to minimize infringements on Grateful Dead’s intellectual property. They are now doing weekly sweeps of Etsy, Ebay, Amazon and other seller marketplaces. If they find products that infringe on their trademarks, they will send a takedown notice to the marketplace and/or a cease and desist letter to the seller. This is a routine part of managing a license, especially one as valuable as Grateful Dead.

Do we send cease and desist letters?
No, we do not, and have never sent cease and desist letters.

What do we do when we find people using our art?
We will comment on the post that it is an unauthorized use of our art and then we will send that link to the team at GDP that handles infringements. It is their job to follow up with the reported item as they see fit.

What is the difference between a cease & desist letter or a takedown notice?
A takedown notice is sent to the seller marketplace and it is then up to that marketplace whether or not to have the product removed. In some cases, the marketplace may decide in favor of the seller and take no action. Many marketplaces are notorious for taking little, if any, action at all. Others are better about protecting a licensor’s intellectual property.

A cease & desist letter is exactly as it sounds. It’s a letter telling you to stop selling what you’re selling.

Is a cease & desist letter the same thing as being sued?
No, it is not. A cease & desist letter is a warning that if you don’t stop you could be sued.

How can you protect yourself against a potential cease & desist letter or a takedown notice?
Don’t use copyrighted or trademarked logos in your artwork. Don’t use band names or venue names either. An artist or a band’s likeness (photo or drawing) are also protected and should be avoided.

How can you know which Grateful Dead logos are copyrighted and/or trademarked?
As a general rule of thumb, assume anything well known is copyrighted and/or trademarked. All of the icons including the Steal Your Face, Bertha, Terrapins & Dancing Bears have long since been copyrighted and trademarked. Yes, the 13 point lightning bolt is too.

Do fans have a right to use copyrighted artwork?

Commercially, no. This isn’t about feelings. It’s not about what Jerry would have thought. It’s not up to you either. It’s defined by law, and while the abundance of fan art that has long accompanied Grateful Dead music may very well have a lot to do with why the band has enjoyed such a long history, that doesn’t change the fact that there is a licensing team in place to manage the rights and responsibilities associated with the band’s intellectual property. We don’t make the rules. We just follow them.

For more information on how licensing works, we offer an in depth 50 question FAQ. Here are the first six questions from that FAQ.

What is licensing?
Licensing is the practice of one party offering another party official permission to do, use, or own something.

What is intellectual property?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, an agency of the UN) defines intellectual property as referring to “Creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce,” adding that “Intellectual property is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyright.”

Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.

Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

We are reffering here specifically to Copyright IP, specifically the rights to use artistic works for the creation of branded merchandise.

What is branded merchandise?
Branded merchandising refers to the practice of adding artwork, logos and/or names to products used to promote a particular movie, popular music group, etc., or linked to a particular fictional character.

For example, our Grateful Dead products would be considered branded merchandising to promote a popular music group, and our Jim Henson products would be considered branded merchandising linked to fictional characters.

Can anyone make branded merchandising?
Nope, that’s why licensing exists. Only the creators of those properties can use them or the parties to whom they’ve licensed the rights to do so. You can start your own brand with your own IP, and maybe one day you can be a licensor, but otherwise, you need a licensing contract to create branded merchandise.

What’s a licensee and what’s a licensor?
A licensor is the corporate entity that licenses a property. A property is what a licensor licenses and is usually an entity well known in popular culture such as a band or TV show.

For example, The Jim Henson Company is the licensor of many properties, including the two for which we have a license with them: Fraggle Rock and Labyrinth.

A licensee is the party paying for licensing rights. Little Hippie is a licensee.

How does one become a licensee?
You need to have an established business, and a good plan for growing that business through licensing. You cannot start with an idea. A licensor will need to see that you are established in a market before they risk the reputation of their property or properties with your business. You need to have a positive reputation and good relationships with your customers (what’s legally referred to as “goodwill”), and you need to be able to call on a few of them for references.

Once your business and your reputation are established, the next step is to create a licensing proposal. Most licensors have a form for you to fill out with the information they specifically want to know. Find out who the licensing agent is for whatever property interests you, email that person a brief synopsis of what you have to offer, and request that they send you their proposal process.

Licensing Resources

Whether you're looking to pursue a licensing opportunity or simply gain an understanding of this industry, our FAQ is sure to guide you in your next decision.

Licensing Worksheet

This worksheet will prepare you to create a licensing proposal by identifying the terms by which you'd like your license defined, and it will provide you with the framework necessary to create your projections.

With 15 years experience in licensing & merchandising, Little Hippie founder, Taylor Swope, has the background and understanding to answer your questions and guide you in the next steps of growing your business.

To learn more about Taylor

Click here to read her bio or visit any of her personal socials.

WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT LITTLE HIPPIE?

Beloved characters

Female-run small business

Creative new take on icons