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When “logos” turn into “no-goes” (Brands & IP Newsnotes - issue 1)

27 September 2015

As we move even deeper into an age of digital advertising and social media, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to have a short hand for their brand; something which denotes the business, stands out as a guarantee of origin and makes the brand instantly recognisable. We’re talking about logos.

There are several phases in the lifespan of a logo. It of course has to be created and after that a business has to activate it which means investing in it and using it. A business may elect to obtain registered IP rights in a logo which could later make enforcement against third parties easier and more effective.

Several recent cases have emphasised the importance of proper clearance and due diligence before a logo is activated. Readers may be familiar with the long-running disputes between Apple Records and Apple Inc. which included disputes over the use of an Apple logo to denote goods and services provided by those respective entities. More recently, Enterprise Rent-a-Car sued its competitor Europcar in the High Court when Europcar chose to use a lower case green ‘e’ logo to denote its services. Enterprise already used a lower case ‘e’ on a green background and was successful in enforcing its registered trade mark rights. Then, last month, the organising committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics announced that it was scrapping its logo following a claim from a Belgian designer that the logo had been copied.

The advice is quite simple – if you are thinking of activating a logo, make sure that you are clear to do so before you invest money in it. That could involve a simple due diligence process and speaking to a trade mark attorney. In some crowded markets complete originality and inspiration may be difficult to achieve but it is imperative in order to avoid costly litigation or the embarrassment of having to stop using a logo.

This article was first published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 1.

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