Your business logo is the face of your company and typically, the first point of contact with your prospective customers. Also, it differentiates your brand from your competitors in the market. But unfortunately, there are many corrupt people out there waiting to steal or infringe on your intellectual property for their own interest. This is the main reason why most organizations, including big brands like Apple and Gucci, spend hundreds and thousands of dollars protecting their brand logo design. Perhaps the only and most effective way to do this is through a logo copyright.
Although it may take some time to get the final approval for the logo copyright, initiating the process preserves your rights to proprietorship and thus legal protection. If you don’t have a proper logo copyright you stand ineligible to sue another party for copying your logo. Before we get into further details, let’s take a quick look at what copyright is and why you need to copyright a logo.
What exactly is copyright?
Copyright is primarily a legal right that secures your ownership of a particular work, job, or design. It prohibits any use, modification or extension of your work (without your consent) by someone else. For graphic designers or design agencies, it helps regulate commercial exploitation of their creative work so they can focus on the exclusivity and relevancy of their content. Symbolized by a small ©, copyright helps protect all types of creative content that are typically used for brand representation. From logos and books to music, paintings, photographs, Webpage, sculpture, films and more, copyright allows the real owner to claim his/her creative work.
All you have to do is copyright your logo in a fixed form of expression. What’s more, a copyrighted logo design helps maintain the exclusive identity of your business. As for graphic designers, nothing can be more demoralizing or frustrating than seeing their design being copied or reproduced by someone else, without their permission.
If your logo is a genuine work of art that you have exclusive rights to, for example a designer created image or wordmark, a drawing, original photograph or painting, you have every right to copyright it.
Why do you need to copyright a logo?
One of the most common questions regarding logo copyright is, “Do I need one?” To answer this question, one needs to first identify the scope of protection that they may be seeking. Remember, each type of legal registration targets different purposes, are secured differently, and offer different kinds and levels of protection.
Typically, if you’re using your logo in connection with your brand and you’re selling goods or services using the same logo, obtaining a copyright is a must. This helps your consumers in identifying you and your brand as the sole source of your goods or services. You don’t want to confuse them about this.
On the contrary, if you use your logo in ways other than simply selling your products or services, you may want to file a copyright application for added identity protection. This helps retain the uniqueness of your logo and brand identity, as though it were an exclusive piece of art.
How to copyright a logo
Once you’re done with your logo design, it’s time to proceed with the copyright process. As already discussed above, this protection is key to your brand or creative identity and must be done promptly. There are three important steps in this process. Here’s how you can go about it.
- Use the copyright symbol
First of all, you need to add the copyright symbol depicted by © at the top of your logo. It is the only symbol that denotes whether the logo has been copyright protected or not. However, some people also use the word “Copyright” or “Corp.” at the beginning of their logo. This is an alternative way to denote logo copyrights. Both of them carry equal weight and are used extensively by brands across the world. You can use any of them according to your requirements.
- Include date of publication
Next, you need to add the date of publication. This confirms the year in which it was first launched and thus, instills a sense of credibility among your customers. It will convey to them about the inception of your brand in a smart and professional way. For example, if you have started your business in 2015, always use it in the copyright logo. This will enhance your brand’s credibility factor which, in turn, also increases customer loyalty and retention.
- Add publisher name
Thirdly, you need to feature the publisher’s name on your logo. This way, you let people know about the proprietor’s rights on that logo. However, make sure to use the same name that holds the ownership of the brand. These minute factors help add the trust factor to your logo, which perfectly aids in boosting your brand image.
How to register your logo copyright?
Copyright logo registration is quite a simple process. Nevertheless, you need to keep a few copyright laws in mind. Basically, there are two ways to register your logo copyright. One is by using the conventional paperwork and the latter one involves using the online channel. Most people prefer going with the online procedure as it is comparatively quick and takes less time for approval. Below, we’ll take a look at both of these procedures.
- Manual registration
Although the online procedure is more popular, you can always read the manual way to register your copyright logo. You can do this by filling out the Form VA obtained from the online registration website. Now, you need to tender the hardcopy of that form together with the deposit copy at the Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559. This process may take some time, perhaps around 8-9 months for completion. Do make sure to keep the receipt copy of the submitted form in a safe place for future formalities. It will help you avoid any inconvenience or discrepancy related to your form submission and status update.
- Online registration
For online registration, you just need to visit the official website and fill out the Form VA there. It should take around 15-20 minutes approx. to complete the entire process. If you’re in the US, you can visit the online portal of the United States Copyright Office and it’ll take only a few steps to complete the online registration.
Simply click on the Registration portal given on the primary menu, which will provide you with the online registration form where you need to enter some of your personal and creative-work related details. There, you need to mention the name of the owner and the type of copyright. Next, you have to submit the digital file of your logo together with the registration fee. You can either submit the fee with your credit or debit card, or pay it through the United States copyright office.
Once you’ve completed all the above formalities, you will receive a confirmation message containing all the details. Typically, it takes around 7-8 months to complete the online registration process. Meanwhile, you may also get calls or emails related to any other details required by the United States copyright office. Hence, always make sure to regularly check your email and the registered phone number for such official queries. This will help simplify and accelerate your registration process.
Note: Although you can handle the entire copyright registration procedure by traditional mails (by downloading and printing the forms from the website and manually submitting your application papers to the designated postal address), the online registration application makes everything faster, smoother, and less expensive. Typically, an SVG logo file is small and web-optimized, and you can easily submit it online.
Top cases of logo copyright infringements
Here is a list of some famous logo copyright infringement cases that happened around the world.
- Louis Vuitton vs Louis Vuitton Dak
In a shocking instance of international copyright infringement, a South Korean fried chicken outlet lost a copyright battle with the designer tycoon Louis Vuitton. The court gave verdict in the designer brand’s favor after confirming that the restaurant’s name “Louis Vuiton Dak” was strikingly similar to Louis Vuitton. Aside from the name infringement, the restaurant also allegedly copied the logo and packaging design of LV.
Louis Vuitton Dak was eventually hit with a whooping 14.5 million fine for copyright infringement, and they changed their brand name to Louis Vuiton Dak. It’s always advisable to avoid mirroring any brand’s name or logo, even if your products or services have nothing in common.
- Adidas vs Forever21
Adidas filed a lawsuit against the famous clothing brand Forever21 alleging that their merchandise, which feature a “three stripe” design, include “counterfeit products.” Adidas stated that they have “invested millions” to create and protect their iconic three-stripe design and own “numerous” patents for their brand. Given the similarity between Forever21 and Adidas’ products and supply channels, Forever21 may have been able to evade this lawsuit by choosing a different design than that of Adidas.
- Apple vs Apfelkind
The mega tech giant Apple filed a lawsuit against the small German café named Apfelkind in 2011 for logo copyright infringement. The owner of the café didn’t move from their ground and refused to change their logo. However, the case was later resolved and Appfelkind was given the authorization to use the logo.
- Nestle vs Cadbury
In 2006, Nestle and Cadbury stood against each other due to the copyrighted shape and packaging of the KitKat bar. Although the latter tried to invalidate the copyright, they eventually lost the battle in court.
What counts as copyright infringement
Intellectual property rights, such as copyrights, have both positive and negative effects on business proprietors. On one hand, getting copyright protection for your brand logo means that nobody can use or exploit it without your consent. This unique visual identity can easily make your business stand out among its competitors. On the other hand, logo copyright could also get you into trouble if your design is too similar (even unknowingly) to something else that already exists in the marketplace.
Any original creation by an artist or organization can become an “intellectual property”. According to the US laws, when you design a custom logo, packaging, a new product, or even draw a picture, it becomes your intellectual property. It is immediately protected by IP laws.
Legal protection of intellectual property comes in various forms, such as:
Patents: Used to safeguard inventions and innovations.
Copyright: Used to defend fictional and artistic works.
Trademarks: Meant to distinguish the goods or services of a particular organization.
Although every designer or business in the US automatically owns the copyright to their own creations, formally registering it can give you more peace of mind. This also ensures that if someone uses your image unethically, you can drag them to court.
Logo copyright infringement occurs when someone uses an important component of a copyright (like the shape or color of the emblem) without the owner’s permission.
Some people think that just because they’ve changed a few details in a particular logo, or they run their business from a different place than its original location, there’s nothing to worry about copyright. However, that’s not the case. Even if you get away with someone else’s logo design for a while, you’ll eventually be found out and sued. So, knowing who owns the copyrights to a logo design and if it can be used is important.
If you’re unsure about the copyright laws in the US or want to conduct a thorough research about a particular logo, consider speaking to a lawyer.
In the meantime, you can also get your customized logo and avoid all the legal hassles by collaborating with DesignBro. They provide 100 percent unique and personalized logos at competitive rates across the world. The best thing about them is that they work with only the best 5 percent of designers who submit their portfolio. Since the designer recruitment process is so rigid and selective, you’ll get only the best designs to choose from. Good luck!
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Image Credits: Freepik
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.