Thinking of selling branded products, but scared you’ll get sued for copyright? Here are four legal ways to do this by leveraging famous celebrities and successful brands.
Watch the video below:
A lot of people worry about selling branded products because they fear they might get sued for copyright infringement.
This concern makes sense, but people don’t realise there is an easy way around it.
One effective way is by legally piggybacking off successful brands and famous celebrities.
In this article, we’re going to reveal four different ways you can achieve this. We’ll look at successful real-life examples of selling branded items, and you’ll learn how you can do it WITHOUT the risk of getting sued.
This is great for people who aren’t very creative, or who would rather sell products with existing demand. It’s the perfect solution for those who want to be totally legitimate and safe when selling online.
So if you’ve been interested in selling branded products without risk of getting sued, then read on to find out how…
DISCLAIMER: At Wholesale Ted, we are not lawyers. So please don’t take this article as official legal advice.
#1: Create and Sell T-Shirts Hijacking Famous Celebrity Quotes and References
This is a smart, legal, and easy way to make money.
For example, here is a t-shirt that sold well over $10,000 on the print-on-demand website TeeSpring.
The reason this t-shirt was so successful was because of the clever twist on the phrase ‘Dragon Energy’, which is a popular phrase used in a tweet by music star Kanye West.
Knowing this tweet was trending like crazy, and that Kanye West is a world-renowned music star, the seller immediately grabbed at a profitable opportunity by leveraging Kanye’s “star power” by plugging his Dragon Energy phrase into a shirt for coffee lovers.
This is a smart and creative way of recycling quotes already made by celebrities. Instead of coming up with your own quote or tweets, you get to ethically steal them! And the best part is that this is legal, so you don’t risk getting into trouble for copyright infringement.
On the other hand, some celebrity designs are a one-way ticket to being sued. One of them is this t-shirt of Kylie Jenner’s face.
Why? Because when you sell products with images that you don’t have the rights to use, even if it’s by accident, it’s a great way to get your store shut down.
And even if you do have the rights, you don’t have the option to sell the image on any type of merchandise.
The reason why is because celebrities are protected under a law called Personality Rights. This gives them the right to control the use of their name, image, and likeness for commercial products being sold. So you can’t simply slap any celebrity’s face onto a t-shirt and start selling it.
“But what if I draw the celebrity? Wouldn’t that be okay?”
This is often a grey area. But truthfully, in most cases, it’s the artist who loses the case if it is legally pursued.
This may be true, but people still overlook these consequences. After all, it’s easy money, so why not take the risk?
If you insist on drawing celebrities instead, then go ahead. With caution.
But just before you do, here’s a word of advice: To legally use a picture you draw of a celebrity, it needs to be a completely transformative picture. And so it’s very important to avoid using a photo of a celebrity as inspiration for your art.
The safer option would be to take advantage of famous celebrity quotes as mentioned above. But if that idea doesn’t excite you as much, maybe the next method might hold your interest better…
#2: Dropship Replicas of Famous Celebrity Clothing
There are some pieces of clothing out there that make people immediately think about a particular celebrity.
This arm brace serves as a perfect example. When you see this, who are you reminded of? That’s right. The late, great Michael Jackson.
Similarly, here is this iconic Toy Boy belt, which was a belt sported by Madonna several times throughout her career. People who know her instantly think of her when they see this belt.
Luckily, replicas of famous celebrity clothing aren’t subject to copyright. Unlike works of art, most jurisdictions actually see them as “functional” items. This gives you the opportunity to profit from replicas already sought after without worrying about getting sued.
#3: Sell Already Popular Copyrighted, Trademarked, Niche Products on Amazon
If you aren’t so crazy about selling printed designs on t-shirts, this idea might grab your attention. The best part is, it doesn’t require a single creative bone in your body!
With this simple model, you buy branded products from suppliers then sell them on Amazon. Let’s look at how this works in three steps.
Step 1: Find a product
Unlike dropshipping, you don’t need a niche. Instead, you look for items that are moderately popular on Amazon.
But what exactly is “moderate”? Well, first let me show you what is NOT: these BOSE headphones.
Although they have a huge demand on Amazon, the competition is just as big, so there won’t be much room to make a decent amount of money.
“Moderate” would be more like these Cadet retriever rolls.
They aren’t a large brand, but as you can see from Jungle Scout—a product database software that projects the number of sales of products being sold on Amazon—it’s making over $14,000 a month in sales.
Step 2: Contact the manufacturer and negotiate a deal
Now that you’re onto a ‘winner’, the next step is contacting the brand manufacturer to ask if you can open an account.
Honestly, though, it’s not that easy—especially as a beginner. Manufacturers don’t just accept anybody to work with, and they are only usually interested in serious partners.
That’s why you negotiate a deal like this:
“Hey, I’ll come in, edit your listing, and MASSIVELY increase your sales. In exchange, we’ll make a deal. My business gets the right to buy these products direct from your manufacturer at discounted wholesale rates. I will then send these items into Amazon for you, and I will ‘manage’ your listing and grow your sales.”
There are two reasons why this works.
Firstly, YOU win. You get direct access to them instead of going through distributors, which means you get huge discounts on their inventory when you buy in bulk.
Secondly, they win. Considering this is a long-term deal, you’re going to make them a lot more money since you’ll be regularly buying their items in bulk.
Step 3: Sell on Amazon
Now that you’ve nailed the deal, the last step is sending inventory to Amazon’s warehouse and optimizing your listings to increase sales and conversions. But this is all really the cream on top.
Remember how in step 1 I mentioned those products on Amazon were already making sales? Well, even if you decided not to improve the listing and leave it as is, you’d still make money. This is because Amazon already has pre-existing traffic: loyal customers who already know beforehand what they want.
Once your listing is live on Amazon and a customer places an order, Amazon picks, packs, and ships your item to the customer from their warehouse. This is something called Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon).
This model is great for those who would rather sell products with existing demand rather than having to be creative.
#4: Piggyback Off Famous Politicians
Like celebrities, political fame can also be used to make big profits.
For example, here is a Father’s Day mug based around Donald Trump. It’s currently selling like crazy. And as a result, it is one of the top-selling items sold on Etsy.
But you know what? This mug is illegal. And is 100% infringing on Donald Trump’s personality rights.
So why is it being sold? The reason is because, unlike celebrities, being sued by a politician is rather unlikely to happen.
In general, major politicians like presidents and party leaders choose to ignore merchandise made of them. Even if they necessarily don’t like it.
Why? Because usually, pursuing products like this makes them look bad. Many countries socially treat politicians as fair gain. (Toilet paper featuring political leaders have long been a staple in political novelty items. So honestly, this is nothing new!)
Politicians ignoring products like this is similar to what happens in the Anime community. If you go to an Anime convention, you’ll often find a booth where artists sell fan art. Technically, this is illegal, yet most Anime producers would rather turn a blind eye because they believe it helps them more than it hurts.
Guess what? Like this Donald Trump mug, you have dozens of opportunities to create and sell positive to neutral merchandise that will likely never get taken down.
The Bottom Line
In short, there is a massive opportunity to profit from branded products.
Selling branded products saves you the hassle of having to build a brand from scratch, and doesn’t require much work up front to get the ball rolling.
And, compared to other business models such as dropshipping or private labelling, selling branded products doesn’t require as much hard work before you start seeing results
Above all, the key is in the strategy. You need a strategy that allows you to sell branded products, without the risk of getting sued.
These four strategies outlined in this post are great way to get started. And the best part is, there is little to no risk of getting sued.