Do You Own The Copyright In Your Logo?Mar 11, 2022
This blog post was first published on 1 June 2019
One thing that I love about working with brands on big campaigns is that they often send a photographer to the event and you get wonderful glossy new images for your website. Have you ever considered that you may not have the rights to use them? Or what about when you get a website creator to update your website or a graphic designer to create you a logo? Are you making sure that ownership and/or licence is passing to you?
What is copyright?
Copyright is a proprietary right subsisting in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and typographical arrangements. Ownership of copyright in a work comprises the exclusive right to do certain ‘restricted acts’ in respect of that work, and a copyright owner may authorise others to do those acts by licence.
The owner of the copyright may transfer the ownership of their copyright to others. This is known as assignment.
Under UK law, the restricted acts are:
- copying the work;
- issuing copies of the work to the public;
- renting or lending the work to the public;
- performing, showing or playing the work in public;
- communicating the work to the public; and
- making an adaptation of the work.
It is an infringement of copyright to do any of these things without the permission of the copyright owner, so if you wish to do any of these acts you must seek permission, unless your proposed use falls within one of the exceptions to copyright. Usually this permission will take the form of a licence permitting the desired act, but sometimes the copyright owner will assign his rights to a third party altogether.
Why does this matter?
Well one of the most famous examples of this in action is with Innocent Smoothies and their halo logo . When the company first launched there was an agreement that Deep End Design Ltd would create the design work for the company in exchange for shares in the business. They created the now famous logo but the rest of the formalities weren’t tied up in rightly.
Innocent and their designers failed to finalise and sign the draft contract, failed to transfer the shares or properly transfer the copyright in the image from the designers to Innocent.
Fifteen years later the designers went bust and sought to prevent the continued use of the logo.
Can you imagine what that must have been like for Innocent whose brand is synonymous with that logo?
A lengthy (and no doubt costly) legal battle later and the Court allowed Innocent to continue using the logo. The moral of the story, logos and graphics are important to businesses, ensure that if you commission a designer you have arranged for the copyright assignment from the point of payment. In English Law the designer is the copyright owner even if the work has been commissioned. Copyright assignment is a simple document but it must be in writing and must be signed by the designer.
The rights to copy including images remain with the creator, regardless of whether the creator has been paid. Use of the content can be agreed by way of licence or assignment.
Obtaining copyright is often overlooked but it is so important to ensure that you own the rights to anything which has been created on your behalf.
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