So you have put together your business plan, and found investors and you know your product will be a hitâ€”but you need a creative and unique logo that just gets the meaning across. You have an artist design one, and then just as your first shipment of business cards arrive, you suddenly discover that someone else has a logo that is very close to yours. Are you in trouble?
In terms of copyright, both you and your competitor enjoy copyright protection by the act of putting the logo down on paper. Copyright protection does not require you to file with anyone, although registering your copyright makes it easier to seek out damages and also serves to prove when you first produced your logo.
However, it is likely that as long as your logo designer has refrained from copying other logos or using copyrighted text, that there is no infringement. Unless your logo is very similar to the others, or was obviously copied, you are likely safe.
A trademark is designed to protect your logoâ€™s consumer identity. The question that will be asked is: â€œDoes your logo risk confusing consumers?â€ That is why, for example, there can be a â€œJoeâ€™s Dinerâ€ and a â€œJoeâ€™s Tiresâ€ in the same town even though both logoâ€™s are trademarked. It is because the consumer would not be confused by the two logos.
In addition, trademark protection is very specific. Trademarking a logo does not extend protection to other uses of the components of the logo, like the company slogan or a picture if used independently. That is why a logo is often trademarked but a book falls under copyright.
Since trademarks must be registered with the government before becoming operative, any contest often turns on who registered the trademark first. On the other hand, due to the specificity of the trademark, it is entirely likely that the court will decide you were not infringing, so long as you have not directly copied aspects of the other logoâ€™s design to yours.
Doing It Yourself
The best way to avoid trademark or copyright issues it to stay creative and avoid the temptation, no matter how attractive, of copying somebody else's work to your own logo. The more creative and individualistic your logo is, and the more documentation you have proving that it was your work or that of an artist you hired, the less likely it will be to get you in trouble.
Finally, make certain you secure an Intellectual Property attorneyâ€™s services. Trademark and copyright law can be complex, and paying a small amount now to get qualified legal assistance can save you an immense amount of trouble later. As with nearly every aspect of running a business, successfully creating a logo that does not create copyright or trademark issues is mainly about thinking ahead, and avoiding the temptation to take shortcuts by copying aspects of another design.Â
Photo credit: 5_Cripps-Medical_small by smartmindnetwork/flickrÂ
Ever wonder who designs your doctor's medical logos? Avery Petersen works with companies in the medical field to build their branding strategies.