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  • Copying a pre-existing logo

    I have a client that has a logo he purchased from a sign company. This client wants me to make a website for him and his company. I want to use the logo but the client would need to repurchase the logo for web use, since he owns minimal printing rights to the logo. So my question is, can I copy the logo for the client and the website? How much are logos covered by copyright laws? I don't want to do anything illegal, but I want to help the client and myself out. I will be using the logo quite a bit and was hoping if legally I could copy the pre-existing logo for these uses it would make my life a lot easier.

    Thanks for the help and I am sorry if this is in the wrong thread any and all mods can move it if necessary.
    Cory - Designer in Training
    Art Institute Student

  • #2
    Personally, I wouldn't do a web site where I KNEW use of the logo was illegal. Although you probably wouldn't get into trouble personally, you'd be the first one they throw under the bus if lawyers came knocking. They'd ask if you knew the logo had restricted rights. Why risk it?

    Originally posted by Design _Zero
    I want to use the logo but the client would need to repurchase the logo for web use, since he owns minimal printing rights to the logo.
    It seems like you already answered the technical question, so all that is left is ethical. I would tell your client the situation they'd be getting themselves into. Let them know that posting this online and using to promote their product or service could get them into legal trouble because they do not own the web rights. They could always want to take the gamble, and that would be your cue to judge it.
    Broke or just cheap? Read my list of free open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite software.


    • #3
      Weird. I've never heard of designers only transferring some rights to the client (in this case print only). If I were a client paying for a logo I would want to own all copyright to it.

      Copying the logo for web use would not be a good idea if the client indeed does not permission to use for web.

      Maybe you should try and find out the real story.
      It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


      • #4
        You would be just as liable if you copied it vs. used the original. The likeness is what matters.


        • #5
          Maybe you can convince the client to let you design a new logo for them, since they don't even own their current one.


          • #6
            Originally posted by JMV Design
            Maybe you can convince the client to let you design a new logo for them, since they don't even own their current one.
            That's what I was going to suggest. Through this, the client should now understand the true value of comissioning a real logo from a professional designer, instead of "borrowing" one from a template factory.

            If they're still not getting it, then it's your job to point out the obvious to them.
            Ned Yeung, A.C.E.


            • #7
              I would love to not have to worry about all of this and just re-do the logo for the client. Unfortunately, the client just purchased the logo. It is for his sign and as far as he knows the logo was made and purchased only for the sign usage. So for me to create a new one would mean he would have to have an entirely new sign created.
              I don't think I phrased my question correctly, because I'm not getting the responses I hoped for. I'm not asking whether or not to use the logo. I want to know if anyone knew of any copyright laws forbiddening me from creating my own similar logo. I know on my own that if it is illegal not to do it. I just am not aware of the laws and how much they protect changing an exsisting idea and selling it.
              I think my best bet would be to get a hold of the original designer and find out how to purchase the rights to the logo. Either that or do my best at making a logo that will go along with the exsisting logo. I hope this clears things up a bit. Thank you all for the advice and the ideas.
              Cory - Designer in Training
              Art Institute Student


              • #8
                Just like any other crime.

                Was there intent?

                If there was intent than how can that intent be proven?

                In this case you have intent and that intent will be proven through resemblance. So I would advise against copying the logo. Furthermore, you have made your intent known on a public forum if any one decides to dig.

                These are the cracks that logos that resemble others can slip through. Someone may create a logo that resembles another, but if the intent can't proven than the case falls apart. The intent of producing a copy needs to be proven. The resemblance is only one part of that puzzle.
                Last edited by tZ; 09-22-2008, 09:52 PM.


                • #9
                  I would hedge your bets and not create anything similar to that logo for the customer. If they need to get renewed or outright new rights to use it for the internet as well as their sign tell them that.
                  For example: they say that you can use it online and it turns out they lied and used it without the rights to it you can say you informed your client of what they needed for the logo to be online, and, in this example, they had told you it was theirs to use online.

                  However to create a similar logo based on that logo would more than likely be under a copywrite law. Follow this example of painters
                  Example: A painter paints a women in a red dress in an attractive pose. A different painter sees this painting and paints a women in a green dress in an attractive, but different pose. This would probably annoy the first painter since the second is just using what he just did instead of changing anything significant to make it different.
                  Now if the second painter paints a group of women in various colors of dress and in attractive poses, and they were at an event. it would probably not annoy the first painter since it would be a different painting.
                  What's the difference? Look at the painting main points. 1 woman, 1 dress, 1 pose. The color of the dress and the pose is not critical to the main effect, and just changing those didn't really make a individual painting. However, many women in man different dresses in many different poses is similar to the original, but has a different main point. Now the focus isn't on just a woman dress and pose, but on the group and what is going on.


                  • #10
                    search 'derivative work'.
                    Also read FAQ.
                    They should teach this in schools.


                    • #11
                      I don't want to point out the blatantly obvious - but who ever heard of anyone buying the rights to a logo ONLY for the use on a SIGN?

                      Your client is either lying or too stupid to merit having a designer....

                      Who buys a logo without being able to use it on office stationery? Or a business card?

                      Your client has it wrong

                      either that or he doesn't have the original of the logo which is why he wants you to copy it.

                      Ask him for details of the logo company - tell him you'll ring them asking about a new logo and find out what the different fees allow - I'll bet you a beer he wont want to give you their details or.....

                      I'll bet you two beers that whatever his response - it wont match what he's told you up to now...


                      • #12
                        ^ Not necessarily.

                        It's possible that the client hired a "designer" for the logo who really doesn't know what he's doing; if the client didn't want to pay fair market value for a logo, he may have tried to cut corners by hiring someone who does not understand or conform to professional standards.

                        There are plenty of just-want-to-make-a-buck designers out there who do not realize that you should turn over all rights when designing logos (and price accordingly), and instead hold the logo hostage in an attempt to get more money from the client.
                        "It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot


                        • #13
                          It's possible the client purchased his logo for a sign from an online vendor. I use this term loosely, the 'logo' is in fact probably just a generic mark created from an online tool. For example, take vistapr_nt, they have an online 'logo' creator which is free. You create the generic mark and apply it to the online printed product...Say the yard sign or magnetic car sign they have. Bingo you have the product with a unique generic mark. That mark cannot be copyrighted because it's for use only on there products.

                          Investigate the source, and then check out their fine print. Oh and then if you plan on ripping off the mark, set aside a slush fund for the lawyer.

                          If thats not the case at all, then just go to the vendor and politely ask for a vector of just the logo, not the sign art. They should oblige.
                          "I has puter, I isam dsgna?!"


                          • #14
                            OK, so here's the details to alleviate any misconceptions. The guy I am working for hired a sign company. The sign company made a 'logo' of the company name and added the words restaurant and lounge for a outside sign. There is no image or tag line just a font that has the company's name and the other words restaurant and lounge. As far as I know there is NO copyright laws that protect this sign as it stands. The guy who hired me owns the name of the restaurant and I doubt the sign company owns the font.
                            My initial question was, can I use the 'fonted logo', add a character and sell it as my own logo to the client? Also can I add to the 'fonted logo' and use this new logo with the things I a making the client? I would be matching the name on the sign, but adding my touch to them. To me this really isn't copying anything or stealing since it is the name of the restaurant and a common font but I could be wrong.
                            Just to let you all know I am not going to do anything illegal. My current job is in law enforcement and I would be a real knucklehead to do something stupid like that. I am just looking for creative ways around this. Such as a logo I could create that would go hand in hand with the existing logo.

                            Thanks again all,

                            Cory - Designer in Training
                            Art Institute Student


                            • #15
                              Your problem is that you considering changing a logo to be making it your own to sell back to the client. If you changed your wording and just said that you were updating a client's logo I think you would run into less trouble. Logos are updated and refined every now and then. It happens.

                              You need to be clear if the client actually owns the logo though. I don't see why they don't.
                              It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh






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