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Copyright as it pertains to logos.

A question I am often asked is “who owns the copyright to a logo?” It was explained to me by a lawyer friend that it is helpful to understand that copyright refers to a “bundle” of several different exclusive rights. Certainly someone who has just had a logo designed for their company (or organization) wants to be free to legally trademark their mark. Does the designer retain any rights to the design? The answers to these questions should be clearly spelled out in a contract between the designer and the client.

Generally speaking, all licensing rights initially belong to the originator [designer, illustrator, photographer] of art*. Permission to use the art are granted by the originator, on their terms. Granting usage permission makes sense when we are talking about an illustration or photo that might be used in one place, then re-licensed for use in another place. But when we are referring strictly to a logo it is only fair for the client to retain more exclusive rights.

When Ewing Creative designs a logo we reserve the right to display and reproduce the logo in our print and online portfolio, and encourage clients to copyright or trademark it for their business.

Good sources for more information on the topic of copyright and trademarks are:
AIGA
Library of Congress Copyright Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Should I trademark or copyright my logo? http://www.legalzoom.com/trademarks-faq/trademark-versus-copyright-protection.html

Note: The words “mark” and “logo” are used interchangeably.

* Disclaimer. Graphic designers should not be confused with lawyers – our brains just aren’t wired the same way. We encourage you to seek legal council to assure protection of your logo (a.k.a. Identity Design) or trademark.

Posted by Kristy Ewing on October 21, 2010

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