You probably have seen memes all across the internet. These images are often created by random users, adding words to pictures to make a funny or ironic post. Sometimes, memes are protected by law, so individuals could face trouble if they use them without permission.
Grumpy Cat has won an award from a court in California after bringing a lawsuit alleging copyright violations. The company argued that a beverage company was using Grumpy Cat's image, infringing on its copyright.
The two companies had tried to have an arrangement where Grumpy Cat would be used for the Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino. The beverage company, Grenade, argued that the Grumpy Cat company was supposed to promote its brand. Grumpy Cat argued that it had done so and that Grenade used more Grumpy Cat imagery than originally agreed to boost its sales. Grumpy Cat argued that using images on t-shirts or other products was not a part of their deal or contract and was a violation of the company's copyrights. A jury agreed and awarded the company over $700,000.
As a result of this case, memes are now recognized as potentially protected under law. If you have specific imagery that you use for your company and it is used by others in a meme or in other ways, know that you have a right to protect it. You can file a lawsuit against the other party for violating your copyright. In many cases, you can be compensated for losses that resulted from your company's imagery being used by someone else, which could help you get back on track.
Source: The Wrap, "Grumpy Cat Wins $710,001 in Copyright Lawsuit: 'Memes Have Rights Too'," Reid Nakamura and Pamela Chelin, Jan. 24, 2018