Logos are one of the cornerstones to a business’ sales and marketing identity. It can be as essential as the business itself for a brand’s identity to clients and the public. Logos that are not thought out or resemble other well-known logos may not only appear amateurish to the audiences the business is trying to attract but may further be committing infringement. An individual or a business can protect an original logo, provided it has proof of authorship via the U.S. Copyright Office and/or by registering for trademark protection through the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
Original authorship on websites, business slogans, and even innovative marketing campaigns are critical to protect. A skilled intellectual property attorney can help you acquire and protect these coveted assets that mean so much to your business. Otherwise, these parts of your business could be jeopardized because you did not get adequate protection. It is worth the time and investment to have an experienced attorney help you with these steps.
It is important to note that if you are the first to use a name, logo, or slogan in a geographic area, then you might have gained some common law rights and have a ‘first use’ argument. You have the right to initiate a lawsuit should someone infringe on these business assets, but they are limited without registration. So if you want to protect these assets on a national or international level, you must register and trademark them.
In a recent intellectual property suit, graphic designer Bill Dawson was shocked to find that a logo design he created for an independent film company was on the big screen, when months before the company had expressed no interest in his designs. This issue started when the designer saw his logo at the end of the Conan the Barbarian movie, but then he noticed it was in several Millennium films, including Elephant White, Trespass and Puncture, and that it was also on Millennium’s website. Dawson is claiming at least $200,000 in damages for copyright infringement and breach of contract for unauthorized use of his work.
Originally, Dawson had been contacted by Technicolor, a technical production services company to create a logo for Millennium Films for a small fee. Dawson, as the head of the graphic studio XK9, says that he had a verbal contract with a Technicolor agent. But when Millennium did not show any signs of interest in the designs, no further compensation was pursued.
That there seems to be a missing gap of information between Dawson, Technicolor, and Millennium in this exchange will make for a very interesting court case. Perhaps the court case will show what the agreement, if any, was between Technicolor and Millennium. Regardless, the lack of written terms will likely weigh in Dawson’s favor under copyright laws. As the rightful owner of the designs, he is seeking $200,000 in damages and wants any products, advertising, and marketing collateral with the unauthorized logo to be given back to him.