LEARN MOREThe WIRED Guide to Online Shopping Many merchants rely on third-party companies to print and ship their designs on demand, like TeeSpring, Spreadshirt, Redbubble, Zazzle, and CafePress. Amazon also has its own service, Merch by Amazon, but sellers have to submit an application and wait to be approved to use it. The services allow people to make a profit without any upfront investment or inventory in their possession. To market their merch, sellers often target people with ads on Facebook, Instagram, or even Reddit.Selling merch this way isn’t a risk-free business. One problem sellers often run into is trademark infringement. Two weeks before Musk unveiled his futuristic vehicle, a lawyer for Tesla filed a trademark for the Cybertruck featuring the word “CYBERTRUCK,” all caps, in a simple serif font, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online database. Then, the same day Musk made his announcement, the lawyer filed another patent, this time for “CYBERTRUCK” in the graffiti-style font that’s now the background of Musk’s Twitter profile.
It’s the same graffiti font used by many of the Cybertruck swag sellers on Amazon and Etsy, both of which forbid trademark infringement on their platforms but have sometimes struggled to remove it . A spokesperson for Etsy said the company was unable to comment on specific listings. Amazon and Tesla did not immediately return requests for comment.Tesla sells official merchandise—though no shirts yet featuring the Cybertruck—through its own website. But the company isn’t really in competition with people who sell knockoffs on other platforms. Musk has famously avoided paying to advertise Tesla. He relies instead on superfans who might, say, buy a T-shirt online to market his cars for him. The Cybertruck looks straight out of a 1980s science fiction wet dream—it’s the Google Glass of cars. So of course it became a meme, and those in the business of monetizing memes wanted to take advantage.
If you’re more a fan of the 2020 Ford Ranger aesthetic, don’t worry. Personalized merchandise is an enormous business. Someone will happily sell you a T-shirt with that truck on it.
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