OK, so you’ve got a logo for your business – and you are using this visual brand professionally to communicate with your customers every day.
But have you considered how much ownership you actually have of your brand?
Did you know that unless it is documented otherwise, any creative work you have commissioned and paid for defaults to being owned by the creator.
So unless you have written proof that the creator has passed the copyright ownership to you, they can still claim rights over it.
Which means that if you haven’t got the paperwork, your designer still owns your logo.
This doesn’t just apply to logos. It also applies to photography, illustrations and website designs.
What does this mean for your business?
Well, in general in means you are not free to adapt your logo without permission. It also means that, at worst, a designer could stop you using your logo. (Although having said that, no decent design agency or designer would ever do that to a client.)
It could affect your business if you are looking to sell it on. A buyer would be looking for the paperwork for the brand ownership.
It also means that if your logo became more prominently known and you sold merchandise with it on, the creator would be entitled to royalties. Imagine how much royalty payment is earned for the Nike swoosh, or the Hello Kitty logo, to give just two examples.
How can you change this?
Any good designer or agency will have paperwork to sign over the intellectual property rights to clients, usually for a small fee. It simply needs a document with both signatures on stating that the rights are being handed over. At Othen Creative, we have that option ready – our clients only need to ask.
Once you own copyright, it is yours for the remainder of your lifetime. Your heirs will then own it for 70 years after.
What about registering a brand mark?
This is also a good idea for any growing business. Without a registered trade mark, you are risking competitors using a very similar logo; or worse, using a similar logo in a very negative way that could affect your business.
What is the difference between the TM symbol and the R symbol?
Anyone can use the TM symbol. It is free to do so and shows intent to register your brand, or that you are claiming the logo as your own. It gives an amount of protection as it shows that you believe the mark to be yours and would certainly help if you had a legal issue.
The R mark denotes an official Registered Trade Mark. This has to be obtained from the UK Intellectual Property Office. It is illegal to use the R mark on your logo without authorisation, but you don’t officially have to use the R symbol once registered (Apple and Coca Cola don’t feature it on their logo, yet Microsoft and McDonalds do).
Personally I think it is even more important for smaller businesses to have a registered trademark than it is for the huge brands like Coca Cola and Apple. I can imagine they are quietly confident that no one is likely rip off their well-known logo. Yet a small local business could be under a bigger threat.
It is not expensive to do it yourself online, but you can also ask a solicitor to do it for you, at a cost in region of £200-400. The Registered Trade Mark takes about 4 months to process and the protection is for 10 years.
So do you have the paperwork for the creative work you are using? It might be worth finding out.