Copyright and logos
Logo copyright is the subject of many enquiries we receive. In particular how copyright protects logos and whether logos are suitable for registration. This page deals with the common questions surrounding this subject.
- Can I register my company logo or brand images with the UK Copyright Service?
Yes. In fact, it is common for companies to register their logos with us.
Registrations can be made for the company logo, and also for any images or artwork associated with the brand or promotional materials. This is often carried out at company start up or prior to the launch of a new product or advertising campaign.
Registration can be carried out using our standard application forms.
- Does copyright protect the company name?
Copyright does not protect names in their own right, but trading names will still be automatically be subject to trademark protection against ‘passing off’.
Passing off legislation is designed to prevent a person or organisation from poaching trade from an established company by presenting itself in a way that makes the customer believe that are dealing with the more established company. This would typically involve using the same (or similar) name or logo as the established company or falsely implying an association with the established company. For more details on this, please see our copyright and names fact sheet.
- Can a copyright registration of a logo be used in a passing off case?
Yes, it may help. Certainly the fact that a logo was registered is evidence of the date and content of the logo. At the very least it can help to demonstrate who was using the name or logo first and who was copying.
Copyright or trademark?
- Is a logo subject to copyright?
Yes. A logo that includes artistic or design elements, (i.e. not just the name on its own), is legally regarded as being a work of artistic creation and therefore will be protected under copyright law.
Copyright protects the logo as an artistic work. As copyright is an automatic international right, it therefore follows that, (other than activities specified under fair dealing rules), unauthorised copying of that logo would be an infringement.
- Could a trademark also apply?
A trademark will apply to the logo as it is an identifying mark of the brand identity.
Trademarks and are intended to prevent confusion in the marketplace between competing companies in the same business sector. In most jurisdictions they are automatically protected under common law against passing off (where a competitor uses the mark in a confusing/misleading way, for example to poach trade).
It is also possible to apply for a registered trademark on a per country or region basis. Registered trademarks are administered nationally by each country's government trademark office (UKCS do not register trademarks); if you are interested in obtaining a registered trademark, you should contact a trademark attorney or your national trademark office for further details.
In practice, businesses will tend to only seek registered trademarks in countries where they have a strong trading relationship and fall back on copyright or passing off protection in the remaining countries. A registration of the logo with ourselves provides a low cost way to secure independent evidence of your prior claim in case of incidents in countries where you do not have a registered trademark.
The differences between trademarks, copyright and other rights are discussed in more detail on our intellectual property rights page.