Monday, 9 September 2013

Who owns your company logo?

Businesses are being advised to make sure they don’t fall foul of copyright laws by checking that they actually own their company logos and artwork.

Graham Davies, our senior partner, said: “It is a common misconception that the rights for company artwork automatically transfers to them when a designer is paid for their work. But the designer remains the legal owner of the copyright unless they have officially assigned it to the company, and confirmed this in writing.

“Sometimes, it can be many years before a potential problem arises. And in this time the company’s logo would be well recognised, established, and a highly valuable asset.”

One of the UK’s top smoothie brands, Innocent, lost its distinctive logo some months ago when a court ruled it did not own the copyright – even though it had registered the artwork as a trademark.

Graham said: “To avoid costly disputes over who owns a company’s logo, make sure the designer expressly assigns the rights to their work and its copyright over to your company on completion of the contract. If a company doesn’t have this in writing, the designer still owns the copyright.”

Graham said the ‘in writing’ requirement applied not only to logos, but anything created by a third party such as brochures, websites, business cards and leaflets.

“Don’t assume something belongs to you, just because it has been produced for you, to your own specifications, and you have paid for it,” he added.  "This can be a minefield for companies who have worked hard to raise their profile and then find their image which has become so recognisable actually belongs to someone else. Make sure you resolve these issues at the very start and don’t let things drift or problems will almost certainly occur.”