Common Intellectual Property Issues With Business Logos

August 21, 2010   Steve Davis   Intellectual Property, Trademarks   No Comments

A distinctive logo can be a very effective marketing tool to help businesses stand out from their competitors.  Businesses should consider a number of issues, however, before adopting a new logo.
One of the most common mistakes businesses make when choosing a new logo is failing to conduct a trademark search to determine if another related business has already adopted a similar logo.  If another business has obtained a federal trademark registration for its logo in connection with related products or services prior to another business adopting a similar logo, the latter business will likely have to stop using its logo.  Removing  a logo after it is already being used can be very disruptive and expensive.

If a business is not creating the artwork that will be used in its logo from scratch, it should also be cautious about where it obtains the artwork.  Free or low cost “clip art” images are available from many websites and software packages.  However, these images are often provided subject to a license which may restrict use of the images to “personal” and/or “non-commercial” uses.  Use of images subject to such a license in a business logo may violate those restrictions.

Other issues arise when working with an outside vendor such as a graphic designer to create a new logo.  Many businesses assume that if they pay a designer to create a logo the business owns all the rights in the logo.  That is often not the case.  Graphic designers generally retain the copyrights in the materials they create and only give permission, or a license, to their clients to use the materials.  Businesses should insist on written agreements with their graphic designer and ensure that agreement clearly spells out who owns what rights in the material being created.  Businesses should also seek indemnification language in such agreements to provide that the designer will be financially responsible for any claims that the artwork created by the designer infringes a third party’s intellectual property rights.

The above issues are only some of many intellectual property issues that businesses often face.

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