This is Part 2 of a 3-part series of blog posts about logos. Click here for Part 2, “Should You Register Your Logo as a Trademark?” Click here for Part 3, “Should You Register Your Logo With the Copyright Office?”
Who owns your logo?
That sounds like a pretty simple question. You own your logo, right? Well, it’s not always quite that simple, and in this blog post I’m going to explain why this is a question I often end up asking my clients.
If you yourself personally designed the logo for your business, with no help or input from any other person, congratulations – you own your logo, and you can stop reading now.
If any other person on the planet designed your logo, then read on.
Let’s start with a little bit of information about copyright law in United States. The basic rule of copyright is that whoever creates a copyrightable work (such as a logo) owns that work unless it’s a “work made for hire”. In order for a logo to be a work made for hire under the U.S. Copyright Act, it needs to fall into one of the following two categories:
1. It was created by an employee in the process of fulfilling their job duties. So, in order to meet this qualification, the logo would have to have been created by an employee (not an independent contractor or your buddy or a marketing firm, an actual employee) whose job description included creating logos or similar graphic works.
2. It was created under a written contract that included specific work for hire language.
So just because you paid someone for the logo doesn’t mean that you own the copyright.
Just because you both agreed and understood that they created the logo for you to own doesn’t mean you own the copyright.
Just because you have a written contract with your logo designer doesn’t mean that you own the copyright (unless it includes the necessary legal language, that is).
Got it? Now take a look at your logo and ask, “Who really owns this?” If you’re not sure, feel free to contact me and we’ll sort it out.