Creating an iconic logo can put a company on the map. In the UK, there are strict guidelines outlining how companies can create, and protect their own brand logos.
Copyrighting a brand logo falls under the intellectual property guidelines of British law. Copyrighting your logo will protect you from copycats who may try and steal your creation. By copyrighting your logo you can secure your brand reputation, and make it clear to the public that you are the original owner and creator of the brand image.
Whatever your ideas for a brand-defining logo, make sure you’re aware of the legal steps to take before you actually design it, or you may risk throwing an already copyrighted logo in the creative bin.
This article was originally published on 27 September 2018.
What is a trademark?
Trademarks can be anything from logos to words, shapes and even colours. A trademarked entity is anything that can be represented graphically.
Registering your company logo officially means you have an evidence-based safeguard in place should you face a situation whereby another company has tried to steal your logo.
What if you’re including copy in your logo?
To qualify for registration, your ‘mark’ has to be distinctive and not descriptive of the type of product or service you’re offering. Let’s break it down with an example from British intellectual property expert Karen Hensman from Innovate IP:
“For example, the mark SOAP would not be register-able for soap or toiletries, because members of the public need to use the word SOAP to describe the product.
It’s not fair for one company to have a monopoly right on a normal dictionary word which is essential to describe the product or service itself.”
What Karen’s points prove is that SME owners need to think about the bigger picture when devising their company logo. As it’s being put out in the public sphere, the logo must not infringe upon the democracy of language use…
“The only exception to this is when the mark is highly visually distinctive. For example, if you were to use the name SOAP with a dominant and eye-catching logo, so that the most distinctive element is the look of the logo itself and not the word, this would be allowed.
You would not be able to stop anyone using the name SOAP, but you would be able to stop anyone using a similar visual logo.”
Do your research
Before you get carried away creating and designing the perfect logo for your brand, make sure it hasn’t been registered by anyone else first. If you don’t double check, you run the risk of infringing another company’s registered trademarks. The first thing to do is check the UK Trade Mark Register. This will allow you to check if the logo has been registered before. As long as your logo is exclusive to your particular industry, you can register it.
What kind of protection do you want?
As you are guided through the online registration process, you’ll be asked whether you want to choose a single, or a series trademark. The first option protects one design and even slight variations made to it. The second will protect you against a series of variations, should copycats get obsessed with your logo, but it will cost you per variation.
“A trademark registration is like an insurance policy. It will help you stop a third party copycat without the need for lengthy, expensive legal battles.”
– Karen Hensman, Innovative IP
Proactive steps: Register it with the government
Whilst you can take quick steps to register your logo on private services websites, make sure you have a thorough read of the government guidelines, after which you’ll realise it’s safer to go through more official means. Once you feel convinced, you can begin your application.
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