Logo Design Trademark and Copyright Protection

By Mash Bonigala

Trademarks, patents and copyrights may sound all the same to lay people. But there are actual differences especially in the context of logo design. In a nutshell, copyright is the protection for creative works put in tangible mediums of expression. Trademark encompasses taglines, slogans, business names and other identity markers in a marketplace. A patent recognizes a novel idea or invention.

However in logo design, these three terms converge and sometimes overlap with each other. What does a trademark protect as opposed to a copyright? The answers may be tedious and too technical. But a logo designer should be aware so that he or she knows the rights and responsibilities of the profession.

The Role of Trademarks for Business Logos

Trademark is easily associated with the corporate world. It is used to protect things, images and references associated to a business such as a tagline and more importantly, a logo. Business logos are automatically protected by a trademark. After all, this image is the representation of a brand.

Trademark has a broader coverage than copyright. Copyright is all about protecting creative expression. But it does not cover design elements such as names, logo colors, typography and even the overall design. A trademark can offer protection for these logo design elements. In fact, it can protect the actual business logo itself.

On the other hand, trademarks are limited because it only deals with confusion with other similar business entities in a marketplace. The protection sphere of a copyright is more universal in scope. It protects against unlicensed copying which does not fall inside fair use.

A good case study is between Apple Music and Apple Computers. The two have co-existed together with their own respective trademarks. However, a scuffle happened when Apple Computers entered the music scene with Apple iTunes. The trademarks clashed. But still, both companies continued existing within their respective industries.

The bottom line: a trademark cannot protect against illegal copying. It can only be used to distinguish a product from another to prevent confusion.

The Value of Copyright in Business Logos

Copyright offers more protection but it has a certain threshold. The intellectual property must have a requisite level of creativity. Copyright does not cover basic design elements such as color and design. This is why most simple logos do not avail of copyright protection. Only the artistic logos can have copyright protection, those which are more open to creative interpretation.

This can be confusing because many businesses do not know that there is a difference between copyright and trademark. A logo should reach a certain level of artistry to qualify for a copyright. There is no law that prohibits a business from claiming both copyright and trademark protections for their logo.

A business can use trademark protection to prevent competitors from using the same logo within the same industry. Copyright can then be used to prevent unwarranted copying of the logo by other parties. This gives flexibility for a business to protect the credibility of its brand.

Copyright is harder to defend and protect than trademark because artistry is actually subjective. What may be art for one may not appear as art for another. However, trademark has a narrow scope as it can only defend a logo against misleading of its customers. Copyright guards against unauthorized profiteering from illegally copied logos.

Dual Protections for a Business Logo

Even if trademark and copyright have their respective shortcomings in protecting a logo for a business, they can actually work hand in hand to complement each other. This provides a dual layer of protection for the logo.

In all situations, a business must be vigilant on how its business logo is used. If it falls in the wrong hands or misused by malicious parties, it can spell the end of a business. This is why trademark and copyright protection is of utmost importance.