Copyright Infringement Never Pays

By Mash Bonigala

Copyright infringement may be illegal, but it is still very common. It is not uncommon to see a company copy another UK logo design, name, or other brand aspects to avoid paying for professional design and branding services. However, copyright infringement never pays in the long run. The latest example of this principle is a UK high court ruling in favour of Hasbro UK.

Hasbro is a US company with a wide range of products in the UK including early childhood staple Play Doh. While the modelling dough is not expensive by any means, several competitors have sprung up offering choices that are less expensive or present different benefits. One of these is UK toy brand Yummy Dough, which sells edible dough products.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but copyright infringement is not. The problem with Yummy Dough in this case was not the name, but the strapline. Hasbro UK maintained that the phrase “the edible play dough” was a little close for comfort to Play Doh’s name.

Although the court case only took eight days, the suit was actually filed almost one year ago, in March 2010. Yummy Dough, which is made in Germany and distributed by UK company MAPS Toys, claimed that ‘play dough’ is an inherently descriptive term and thus was subject to fair use. Hasbro UK did not agree, and ultimately neither did the UK high court. The court ruled that the term was too similar to the Play Doh name to be fair game.

The real question was not whether this strapline was similar to that of Hasbro’s product; anyone could see that this is the case. The decision hinged on whether the strapline would in some way imply a connection between the two brands—that is, whether customers would perceive Yummy Dough as somehow related to Play Doh because of the wording. The courts felt that this might happen and thus ruled to uphold Play Doh’s exclusive rights to the term.

This decision may not make it to the front page of the Times, but it underscores the importance of professional branding and logo design services. An ethical and professional UK agency would have immediately seen the similarity to the Hasbro brand and thus avoided using that exact wording. Logo designers are experts not just on design, but on how to use UK logo design and branding within the boundaries of fair use and the law. Outside of any court rulings, it simply is not right to use someone else’s brand for your own profit.

Don’t make this mistake with your own company, because it almost never pays. If you need branding services, including UK logo design, strapline writing, and any other related services, consult with a UK professional. Your company and your products deserve their own unique brand, one that will appeal to your customers without putting your company in the awkward position of defending your choices in high court.