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Cartoon Characters On Tow Trucks


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This topic was Originally Created in March of 2015 by Michael McGovern:


Do you have a popular cartoon character - TowMater, The Incredible Hulk, etc. - displayed on your tow truck?  If so, how was it applied?  Decal?  Airbrush painted?  Photos would be great.  Also, have you ever received a "cease and desist" letter from the holder of the cartoon copyright, e.g., Disney or DC Comics?  If you prefer to contact me privately, my direct e-mail address is

Thanks for your input.
Michael McGovern


Eds Towing said:

Probably one of the most famous in the country is Quality in New York state. Michael Biggs' trucks all have Disney characters in great detail for as long as I can remember. I was told once that he did have permission but couldn't vouch for that personally. 

We used the D.A.R.E. lion for drug awareness for years but honestly didn't have permission for it. We did do a lot of things to contribute to the program though...




Jerrdan John said:

Tater was on my truck when I bought it and I left it. It is vinyl decals. Makes the kids smile, I doubt it helps in any way as an advertising piece for us. Tigger on my hood has ridden there for about three years, when I hit 45 his arms come up, so I just claim I am trying to teach him how to fly, it makes the adults smile! He is neither a paint on or a decal, but a stuffed animal. After years of having these, I can honestly say they are no advertisement value to us. Tigger has brought up Winny the Poo as a subject many times from adults. I do it for the smiles and if I was told to remove them by someone with the authority, I would without a problem, but what does it hurt?

 I had a friend that was crazy about John Deere 4020 tractors. He had a website (4020.com) (No longer running) that had pictures of them with a lot of tech info, but never sold tractors or parts, sort of a 4020 fan site. He received a letter from an attorney from John Deere to remove the leaping deer at the top of the page. He tried to negotiate without any luck, it was remove it or get a lawsuit.




goodmichael said:

If the character/logo is trademarked and a company is using the logo on their equipment they should have permission from whomever has the rights to the trademark. If someone were using a logo that you created in their business you would have every right to ask them to stop using it or to be compensated. Cartoon characters on equipment, signs, and fences do definitely cause your business to be noticed more than if they were not present. A youngster will be quick to point out a cartoon character to a parent who is driving. The company name might not be remembered, but a potential client might request the company that has the cartoons on their trucks. I believe that the use of these characters adds value to the business. Their presence on the equipment adds depth to the exposure of the business.  


DodgeTowGuy134 said:

I think what some people may be missing here in this post is that it doesn't matter if the actual logo you are using on your truck is copyright or not.. But if the image represents a likeness to the cartoon character that is will where the real concern comes in is because you cannot use the likeness without permission it doesn't matter if you have someone else create the logo it all comes down to using the likeness without permission


In Memory of NationalAutow who said:

I wasn't going to ask but when will Mike McGovern tell us WHY he wants the info? Is there some big case brewing or will this be the subject of a legalese column? Maybe he is putting together a seminar for New Orleans?


goodmichael said:

I do not believe that anyone really goes out of their way with the conscious objective or desire to defraud anyone by using a cartoon logo on their service vehicles. Those who do this are, in my opinion are making an attempt to assist people in finding some joy and happiness in the lives of others. They have not undertaken the expense with the intent being that there will be a payoff or gain for their effort. It is done primarily to see children happy. This also can include the child in us adults as well. 

That being said and established, the characters and logos are indeed someones work and property if they are trademarked/copyrighted. If they are used, the rights of the creator should be respected. If you have cartoon characters, sports team logos to include both collegiate as well as professional level sports teams on your vehicles as part of your logo or graphics of the truck, you need permission.


Michael McGovern said:

It is a question I have mulled around in my head for a long time.  And, yes, it is the subject of my Legaleze column in the upcoming April issue of Tow Times.  As you know, I've been around tow trucks most of my life and I've often wondered about the legality of the copyrighted cartoon characters I have seen displayed on some trucks.  And, no, I do not have a pending case.  In fact, in 30 years I have never had one of my towing client receive a cease and desist letter from a copyright holder, so I was just wondering about any experiences that Tow411 participants might have had.

The legal research on the issue was interesting.  Goodmichael is pretty much spot-on with his comments.  Permission is required but there are some limited exceptions to the copyright laws.  I hope you enjoy my April column.  Let me know what you think.

Michael McGovern


Eds Towing said:

I wonder if we need Dunkin Donuts permission to use their logo...




BlackAutoload said:

...on a different note, that rope is bright!


Eds Towing said:

Yea I think my kid likes it cause it's pretty...LoL


In Memory of NationalAutow who said:

Thanks Mike McGovern.

I can't get away from reading just about everything you write. My parents always told me I should have been a lawyer because I enjoy that kind of thing (and I argue a lot).

Ed - Please tell me more about your synthetic ropes? how long have you been using them? What are they rated? What kinds of issues or problems have you had etc.

I have talked to the vendors at tow shows about them before but have been afraid to try one as a primary service line. I do own one synthetic extension, but have never used it.


Eds Towing said:

I'll start a thread in equipment or something so as to not hijack Michael's post here.


@Michael McGovern @EdsTowing @JerrDan John @goodmichael @BlackAutoload

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That's me. The guy that lettered my truck came up with it. Some of the wrecks I recovered look like they were attacked by a bear or maybe I look like Grizzy Adams who knows why he came up with it but people seem to like it. 


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