Before we start this post, it should be noted that we are a design team and not legal experts. Don’t treat this post as legal advice.
Protecting and keeping your business assets safe is important. Whenever we design logos, we’re always asked about the subject of copyright.
“Who owns the copyright?” and “Do I need to pay for copyright?” are some of the most popular questions. The answers to both are ‘you will’ and ‘nope’.
It can be confusing to know what is a fact, so to help our wonderful clients, we’ve decided to write a short post regarding copyright and the process relating to our logo design service.
First, let’s distinguish between copyright and trademark.
Copyright and Trademark
Trademarks and copyright both exist to protect your intellectual property. They are used to protect different types of assets and they work in different ways. They also offer different levels of protection.
Copyright determines the rights people have over the original work they create. It covers all unique creative work such as graphic designs, video, software, content, photography, and film and audio recordings. Copyright is an automatic right that is assigned to you or your business as soon as an original piece of work is created.
Copyright is designed to protect your intellectual property from being used without your permission. You are free to allow others to use your work, to determine how that work is used, and have the right to be identified as the creator of the work. You can also sell or assign copyright to others. However, other people cannot copy, distribute or use your work without your permission.
Importantly copyright covers the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself. Copyright can be sold or assigned to others, and usually work created by employees is owned by the business.
A trademark is more specific than copyright. It is designed to protect anything that identifies the goods, services, and brand of a business. Trademarks protect elements such as a brand name, slogan, and logo.
Trademarks must be registered to have protection. In the UK, you must apply to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) to register a trademark, and the process should take around four months if there are no objections.
Trademarks are designed to protect the unique elements that identify your brand or goods. From unique slogans such as ‘Heinz Meanz Beanz’ to logos such as the Olympic Rings, any combination of logo, name, colours, words and symbols that are used to identify your business can be trademarked. Trademarks are designed to ensure other businesses cannot use your brand.
Both copyright and trademark rights are territorial. Just because you have protection in UK doesn’t mean you have protection internationally. Copyright protection is automatic in all countries signed up to the Berne Convention, but different countries have different levels of protection and enforcement.
How Long Does Copyright Last For?
While copyright is automatically assigned, it also has a defined shelf life before it expires.
The good news is that copyright protection lasts a long time – it doesn’t expire until 70 years after the death of the creator. After this, the work falls into the public domain and becomes free for anyone to use.
People and businesses can use, modify and sell work that is in the public domain without having to seek permission.
Is a Logo Subject to Copyright?
A logo that includes artistic or design elements, (i.e. not just the name on its own), is legally regarded as being a work of artistic creation and will be protected under copyright law.
Copyright protects the logo as an artistic work. As copyright is an automatic international right, it therefore follows that, (other than activities specified under fair dealing rules), unauthorised copying of that logo would be an infringement.
Be aware though, you can’t claim copyright for a logo that has been created on a free logo maker. These logos are made using templates and, therefore, the idea is not original.
Hire a professional logo designer to execute your logo design – their original, creative interpretation of your ideas (custom designed from scratch) will be guaranteed to be uniquely expressed.
So, If You Design My Logo, Do You Own the Copyright?
Yes. At the start.
But once we receive full payment, we provide the logo along with a transfer of the copyright. The transfer of copyright form gives you, the person hiring us to design a logo, the full copyright to that logo.
So to sum up:
You don’t need to do anything to copyright your logo. You automatically get copyright protection when you create (or own the rights to) something original.
If a design team is designing your logo for you, like us, then a simple transfer of copyright document is enough to gain copyright.
You can find out more by visiting the government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/intellectual-property-an-overview