Mock-ups without clients knowledge, legalities?

So I’ve had mock-up layouts created for clients in the past and also potential clients, but those were generally clients in the $3,000-$9,000 range. It’s worked out pretty good thus far, but now I face doing a pitch to a bigger client. If I recall correctly my attorneys said awhile back it was cool and it’s unlikely I’ll get sued for trademark infringement with these smaller clients.

I have the portfolio to back up the capabilities to do a sales pitch, but I know this client isn’t in the market for a site. I know we could produce a better site and backend system. But before I do the usual produce an incredible layout and hope it sells, I want to know if I create this layout for them without their knowledge then do a sales pitch and ask them what they think of the layout I had created, could my company get sued?

I figured at first, most that could happen would be they simply say yes they want it or no they don’t but then there is a factor that their logo/trademark and so forth will be on the layout (it’s essential to have this on the mock-up). I don’t want to have to contact their department simply asking permission, that is a last resort option. What do you think, simply produce it and see if it sells or do you think I’ll end up doing battle royal in court? Thanks.

(Mods close this if it gets no replies after 3 days cause by then I’ll simply contact my legal peoples to get this answered)

I’m curious to hear what your legal peoples have to say about this.

No disrespect but, that is what you need to do really, anyway.

My suggestion would be that the process of reaching the presentation stage would be something like:

write to them with an outline of your proposal. detailed but not too long.
mention that you would like to have a meeting.
follow up the letter with a phone call and arrange a meeting.
If date is set, ask their permission to use thier logo for the purposes of the presentation. make sure they are clear that it would be used only for that purpose and that it would not be seen by anyone else in the context of your project.
get their response in writing.

Point is, if it is in their inetrest to see your porject and they see a potential value from it, they are more likley to agree.

If they agree, you have their permission. if they don’t, you don’t have it and therefore cannot use it. But for them to agree, is the key. Remember, their logo is their (intellectual) property.


Thanks for the reply and the suggestions. With this project I can’t do a typical outline/proposal, I firmly believe a layout (and a couple other things) will be necessary in order to raise the possibility of a generating a sale. I spoke with one of their marketing managers and he told me that several times a year people try to pursue selling web services to them and it’s unlikely that their senior marketing manager would think differently about another request. I just want to be able to succeed where these people failed.

You’re absolutely right that their logo is their intellectual property. And I do agree, I must get them to agree to use their logo and so forth just to be on the safe side. I think I’ll call that same marketing manager and ask him if we can do a one time mock-up just so he can see what they could be missing, for absolutely free, and if it far passes his expectations this could open a door. This was going to be a last resort and it’s one shot ordeal, but I’m a gambling man so if it works it works, if not then back to focusing on other stuff.

I’m not a lawyer - but I can’t see any problems with using their logo for a mockup of THEIR possible website.
As far as I know IP laws they apply to reproducing and publishing protected IP - at least I’m always allowed to print any logo I like and pin it at the wall of my restroom if I like.
You don’t publish it - showing something to the person that the owns the IP can, IMHO, never be seen as publishing.
But better let a lawyer sign that…

An other possible way: make the mockup with an “empty” placeholder (or “your logo would sit here”) and tell them you’d place their logo in there if they agree (still for free!).
This would allow them to see the mockup and if they at least like it a little they’ll give you permission to add the logo and show it again.