It is becoming increasingly more difficult to come up with an original logo, but what’s the difference between inspiration and plagiarism? Trademark and Copyright laws can be confusing and complicated in the creative space, leading to a lot of grey area on the issue, so what are the rules of thumb your organization should follow if you find out that your logo is similar to another company’s - or worse, a competitor’s?
While it’s impossible to know for sure whether you need to change your logo without digging into a lot of information first, there are three questions that are important to ask when deciding if your logo is too similar to someone else’s...
Do My Competitors Think My Logo Is Too Similar To Theirs?
In many ways, this is the single biggest factor in the discussion. If you’re concerned about your logo’s similarities with a competitor’s, it’s important to understand what your competitor thinks about your logo. Many brands have distinctive features to their logo that they think are extremely important, such as font, shades of their brand color, or a certain type of swoosh or line within the logo that they view as distinctive. There’ a decent chance that they don’t believe that there’s any sort of infringement.
A great example of this is the scuffle between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Creighton Blue Jays. While the logos above don’t look outrageously similar, the Toronto Blue Jays believed that Creighton violated a few key design principals that make their look unique. Namely, Toronto believed that any blue jay profile featuring a raised crest is too similar to their visual identity and could lead to the devaluing of their brand. I’m sure that during the design process, Creighton didn’t believe that their logo was too similar, but if they knew how passionate Toronto was about the raised crest, they likely would’ve gone in a different direction and all of this would have been avoided.
The real issue that upset Toronto, though, is the subject of our next question...
Does It Cause Confusion?
If this ends up going to a judge, this will be the defining factor. Do you cause confusion in the marketplace by using this logo? Is it plausible that people who see your logo could confuse you with another company or service? The easiest way to test this is by industry and usage. For example, Delta Faucets is certainly interfering with Delta Airlines’ trademark, but no one is going to book a flight on Delta Faucets’ website, so there’s not a real conflict. If you believe that your logo or trademark could easily be confused with a competitor’s, you should look to change it immediately, because that’s a battle you don’t want to lose.
Before you hire someone to completely redesign your logo, though, there’s one last thing you should consider...
Did They Have It First?
It’s not uncommon for complaints to come through on logos that were actually registered and trademarked long before someone else drew them up. Before you start designing a new mark, it’s important to do your due diligence to find out who created and registered the logo first. If you have enough evidence that your logo was created and trademarked before theirs, there is absolutely no shame in hunkering down and defending your brand.
If you’re looking to change your logo because it’s too similar to your competitor’s, do your research on copyright laws and take our logo design quiz below to know where your logo stands in the market place!