When first learning about copyright law and how it can affect your business, it can be confusing.
Understanding how to copyright a logo, is simple as under international copyright law, copyright is an automatic right at the moment the design of the logo is deemed finished.
You simply have to prove that you created the logo and be able to prove the date. That’s it.
Whilst copyright is an automatic right, if your logo is used without your permission and you want to take action against the offending party, proving you designed your logo on a particular date can be more difficult than you might think. Three common misconceptions are:
Dates and times can be changed on computer files so this in itself is not indisputable proof of creation or ownership of your logo and intellectual property. If a party were to dispute the time and date on the logo file, this may have to taken to a computer specialist to prove that it wasn’t tampered with. This would inevitably add time and expense to any copyright infringement claim.
Emailing to a friend is much the same situation, where if the date was ever disputed you may have to approach your internet service provider and ask them to review their logs and confirm that the email was genuine. This would certainly add significant time to the resolution of any copyright dispute and there's a very good chance that the support request would never actually be fulfilled!
The poor man’s copyright is now a rather outdated way to prove your copyright as by posting your logo and any other creative works to yourself, means you have to keep these envelopes for years to come. Also, once you open them, they cannot be used as proof of copyright again obviously. Of course, if your copyright is infringed on a site like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon or Ebay, you wouldn't be able to send them an envelope and ask them to look inside so this method is now totally outdated.
Using ProtectMyWork.com as a copyright witness for your logo, is an effective deterrent to copyright theft. Once you submit your work, you’ll receive a digital certificate that will show the date and time your logo was received, your name, business name (if any) and an assigned unique reference number. This acts as an effective deterrent to copyright theft and for increased copyright protection, we advise using a copyright notice similar to the following example:
© Copyright 2010-2023 Company Name. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright protected with ProtectMyWork.com Reference Number: 123456789
You can also upload not just your logo but any creative work to your Protect My Work account such as, your website design, website content, photos, any advertising that you’re going to post on Instagram or Facebook, books, songs, poems etc. This is a convenient and organised way to keep all of your copyright protected work in one place. Whilst it's not required, copyright witness registration is very wise and can save a lot of time, stress and financial loss should you find your copyright infringed.
Digital files can be registered with us, such as PNG’s, PDF’s, JPG’s, PSD’s , AI’s, EPS , GIF’s or any file format . This can be done either by email or by logging into your account and uploading it to our secure vault.
It's important to display the copyright symbol on your intellectual property to show that copyright is yours. You do not have to register your work anywhere in order to use the copyright symbol as copyright is an automatic right under international copyright law. Therefore you can place the © copyright symbol (the letter c with a circle around it) on your creative design work and intellectual property as you wish. There is no law that stops you from doing this.
The most common copyright symbol example notice that tends to be printed in books or in the footer of websites, is as follows:
© Copyright 2010-2023 Owner/Company Name. All Rights Reserved.
Using this copyright symbol, allows you to show any person viewing your logo or work that you are the copyright owner, how long the work has been protected by copyright and confirmation that the work cannot be used without your permission. This is an effective copyright notice.
Another of the symbols that you can use on your logo or brand identity is TM, giving you trademark protection. This symbol signifies that you are using your logo and brand as a trademark. Whilst this TM symbol is not officially recognised by UK law as a “registered trademark”, it’s certainly not illegal and clearly indicates that you are using the graphic as a trademark and could hold some limited significance with other countries.
By registering with Protect My Work and uploading your logo to our secure vault, we can help provide evidence of your trademark, which will be needed in a dispute using the common law action of “Passing Off”.
If you want to use ® symbol (or "RTM"), which denotes a registered trademark, we recommend contacting The Intellectual Property Office which is a UK government body. Prices start at £170 per trademark application. The registration process takes approximately 3 - 4 months without any objections, under normal circumstances. You can search the UK trademark database for free here. Alternatively, contact us and we can assist you in registering your trademark with the UK Intellectual Property Office.
The question of whether or not you should trademark or copyright your logo is one that you have to answer for yourself.
Registering copyright of your logo protects the design and the originality of it, however it does not protect the name of your business itself. If you’re going to promote your logo on products such as tshirts, we strongly recommend you register the copyright of your logo. The advantages of registering your copyright are that it's quick, easy and offers immediate copyright protection as well as a lower cost with a copyright registration service like Protect My Work.
Trademark protects the brand aspect of your logo and can also protect the name of your business but would need to file two separate trademarks, one for the logo and one for the name (doubling the filing costs). Filing a trademark for your logo, does NOT automatically trademark the name. If you’re selling goods and services under your brand, your logo will likely be a key part of it and you should consider a trademark. Think Coca Cola and Disney!
It's recommended a trademark is registered to gain complete protection of your logo. Copyright protection will occur when the logo is created and stops someone from copying it but a registered trademark will allow you to prevent any identical or confusingly similar mark in respect of the same or similar goods and services. The disadvantage to this is that it takes much longer, 3 -5 months and costs start at £170 filing fee per trademark.
Copyright and trademark are different. The table below explains the main differences:
|What can be protected?||Original artistic, literary and dramatic works such as logos, websites, songs, music recordings, lyrics, photos, books, training & course materials, product artwork , packaging artwork, drawings, paintings, sculptures, 3d and 2d artwork. poems, scripts, computer software, apps, and dramatic works.||Names, slogans or logos.|
|Registration Required?||No but you WILL have to have indisputably and credibly prove that the work is yours if there is a copyright dispute.||Yes, apply through UK government. International trademarks must be registered with individual countries. The EU can be registered as a block.|
|Registration Process?||Complete the 2 minute registration form on our Register page, then upload your work.||Research – apply – trademark examination – opposition period – approval Click Here For Details|
|If I register a logo that includes a name, is the name also protected?||No. Only the graphic design of the logo is protected. You cannot protect a name using ProtectMyWork.com .||No. You must register two separate trademarks to protect both the name and logo and pay two sets of registration fees.|
|How Long Does It Take?||With ProtectMyWork.com the process is immediate and automated.||Up to 6 months.|
|How Much Does It Cost?||£36.99 (ex. VAT) per year subscription fee.
membership fee with ProtectMyWork.com.
|UK Trademarks start at £170. International prices vary.|
|International Protection?||Yes, 179 countries around the world.||No, only in the country that you have a trademark registered.|
|How Long Does Protection Last?||As a general rule:
Authors lifetime, plus 70 years.
|Usually 10 years|
|What symbols can I use on my logo?||© ™||®|
There's no worldwide database of logos that you can check to see if the logo you designed already exists, but the chances are, if you designed it from scratch, you won’t have any issues at all.
If you’ve used other logos as inspiration, this is common in the graphic design world. Taking elements of logos that you like visually and including them in your logo is acceptable but it’s your responsibility to make sure that you don’t infringe someone else’s logo copyright. You must ensure that you change your logo enough so it could not be mistaken for another, existing brand.
As long as you feel you’re able to justify your logo design is unique and if challenged defend your case, then design your logo as you please.
It's not a problem but if your logo is created by a designer or design company, we strongly suggest that you have a written agreement with the designer that transfers copyright ownership and all intellectual property rights of the logo to you or your company on payment for their service.
We also highly recommend that you ask your designer for the logo source file and upload this to our secure vault for safe keeping.
If your logo is used without your permission, make sure you have a copyright notice and the copyright symbol present somewhere viewable. The first step is to then, contact the other party and explain that your logo is protected by copyright and confirm what proof you have and that you are the legal owner and have copyright protection of the logo. Ask them to stop using your logo and try and resolve the matter amicably.
Should this not bring about the required result, you can send a cease and desist letter stating they are infringing your copyright, make them aware of your proof of copyright and give a time frame for the logo to be removed, for example, 48 hours.
Members of Protect My Work have access to our 6 Point Takedown Guide, which includes template letters for Cease and Desist and DMCA Takedown's. Our 6 Point Takedown Guide advises our members how to have their copyrighted work removed and initiate a copyright infringement case.
Copyright in the United States works slightly differently. Copyright is still an automatic right, registration is not a requirement or necessary but registration with the US Copyright Office, if you’re going to be doing business in the United States, can increase your legal protection. Registration is only required with the US Copyright Office if you wish to bring a legal case of copyright infringement to federal court in the US.