Since you are reading this article you’re most likely either a designer working on brand identity and logos, or a business owner.
Here is what you should know getting started:
A logo can be protected by both copyright and trademark, depending on how it is used.
A logo copyright protects a creative design or an expression of an idea, while a logo trademark protects things that identify a business on the marketplace.
As a designer this means that you can copyright protect your logo design the moment you create it. Note thought, that if you are creating it on contract for hired work, the copyright belongs to the person who hired you to create it. Registering a copyright for a logo you create can be of great importance when you are presenting a client ideas before signing a contract with them, as you can claim your rights if the client decides to take your creation and create a contract with another designer to finalise your original idea. In this case as the copyright owner you can claim your damages or payment for your work.
As a business owner, make sure you obtain copyright ownership over the logo of your business using a contract for hired work with them. Whether you choose to trademark your logo or not, having copyright over it, will be crucial in case of a legal dispute.
Having said that, let’s go see all the details around how logos are legally protected.
Copyright © vs. Trademark ®
Copyright, also referred to as “author’s right”, is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their intellectual property. Any work that has required significant mental activity to create, and is, therefore, considered original, automatically becomes its creator’s intellectual property and is awarded with copyright. However, according to the Berne Convention, the legal framework that governs copyright globally, the beneficiary of the work is the person who has the strongest and earliest proof of ownership of it. That’s exactly who has a registered copyright and proof of ownership is so important.
According to WIPO (Worldwide Intellectual Property Organisation ), a trademark is a sign that can differentiate the goods or services of one business from those of another. Such signs can be, a word or a combination of words, letters, and numerals, drawings, symbols, three-dimensional features, non-visible signs such as sounds or fragrances, or color shades used as distinguishing features – the possibilities are almost infinite.
So, as it is clear by now, both copyright and trademark protect a logo. They just protect different aspects of it. Copyright protects things a company produces. Trademark protects things that identify a company to customers and distinguishes it against rivals.
This is also the reason why it’s not uncommon for larger corporations to protect their identity under both trademark and copyright.
Now you might be wondering why not all businesses protect their identity and logo under both trademark and copyright. One of the main reasons is the cost. Proof of copyright ownership can be obtained easily and at very low or zero cost if you are using a service like CopyrightsWorld.
Trademark registration can be significantly more expensive than copyright. Prices can vary a lot, depending not only on the goods and services, but also on the country or region of the business.
One more thing you should know is that a logo without copyright or trademark registration is still protected from what is known as “common law” which is a form of legal protection for the creator of a logo or phrase, created by a business or individual to identify themselves in their industry. Just because you don’t have a trademark or copyright on your logo, it doesn’t mean you are not protected. Someone using your logo without consent, constitutes an infringement on your intellectual property.
If you find yourselves in this situation remember that you can still protect your logo in court, but you must be able to provide proof of ownership.
If you are a business owner we strongly suggest consulting with a lawyer about the best option between copyright or trademark, but no matter what your case is, obtaining proof of ownership over your logo and brand identity can be a significant game changer in a court.