intellectual property rightsWho owns the copyright to your logo?

This article examines logo design ownership rights and graphic design intellectual property rights, the results many not be what you expect.

What do you think about stealing?

I was in the local supermarket the other day when I noticed a scruffy old man cramming packs of bacon down his trousers. My first reaction was “Oh Wow! How many can he get down there?” Then, “How can he think he won’t be caught! ?”

Did you know that an internet company trawls the net every week and issues over 500 fines to SME’s who are breaking the law?

They also thought they could get away with it!
Intellectual Property rights is misunderstood and ignored by many people.

While you may know that you can’t legally download videos and music without permission, you should also know that photographs and images have the same restrictions. The image on the right is owned by iStock/Getty images and to use it you must pay for the right license depending on the usage and the impressions.

Photographs are owned by the photographer even if commissioned by his client.

Getty Images bother to check!

Fonts belong to the artist and designer who creates them.

All fonts are copyrighted and as a designer I am not allowed just to give these away. Good quality fonts have to be paid for and that is sometimes why fonts downloaded from the internet include bugs and can harm your computer.

Written content is owned by the writer.

Plagiarism is rife and it is theft!.

Anything a graphic designer/artist creates, logos, illustrations, or design layouts are the property of that designer.

If used or copied without the correct permission it is illegal and you can be sued!

copyrightYears ago it was simpler, the client commissioned a product brochure and designers created the ‘artwork’ manually on art boards. Using key lines and galley text, each colour with a separate overlay. The artwork was sent to a printer and the printer made printing plates and then printed the brochure. The end product was what the client had paid for. The client did not receive the plates nor the artwork. If they wanted to purchase the artwork they paid extra – in most cases. The design agency’s Intellectual Property Rights were protected, their work and their time. Usually if no amendments were required the client could save money by commissioning a reprint from the existing printing plates and therefore the printer benefitted from repeat work. This encouraged loyalty on both sides.

With today’s technology and digital files almost any digital file can be changed and amended by anyone with the right software. Problems arise if a client has the design files but hasn’t finalised payment and takes the files to another designer. With statutory Intellectual Property Rights protection the creator has every right to claim compensation. This is theft.

Plagiarism, copying designs and content, imitation and spam or fake social media accounts damage your brand.

If you have worked hard to promote your product and have gained a great reputation then a cheaper product appears with a similar campaign or logo, how do you feel? Your customers may end up confused. They may end up buying the cheaper second rate product thinking it is yours. Then complain bitterly and vow never to use or buy from you mistakenly again!
It’s your reputation!

Free Stuff

There are places you can find free stuff, Creative Commons on Flicker is a great place to find images. Some have a license for personal use, while some allow you to use them but credit the author. Others are not for professional use and certainly are not allowed to be republished or sold.


It is very important to check what licenses you can have and what their restrictions are.

orange rock guitarA recent job included a guitar image but was to be produced twice on every page of the book. The book had 200 pages and was going to be printed in quantity of 5000. The image had a restricted number of impressions that it could be used for under the standard license, the extended license was required.

Intellectual Property Rights, what you need to know when working with a graphic designer…

Find out what their terms include. Do they automatically include copyright or do you have to ask for it. Some designers will charge extra some won’t. Some graphic designers will give you their working/native files. These are not much good if you don’t have the software or the expertise to use it.

A web designer will not give you all his coding for your website. You only get the final site and unless you know your code you have to go back to him to do any changes. In the same way, when using a graphic designer you are commissioning the final product i.e. printed brochure or business card, and the designer will deal with the printer and deliver your final job. If the agreement is for just the final digital files you will be given the final high resolution files. You can then give this to any printer and are not tied into using the designer or their printer. If the designer is getting the print for you it saves you having the bother of finding a good printer and you will rarely need the final files.

The main reason most designers refuse to give high resolution files or working files is because they know you are only taking them to someone else and they will lose any future work when they have taken the time to originate it. Just because you pay for the end product, it does not automatically grant you copyright for the work that has been done to produce it. The designer will still own the intellectual property rights.

In many cases the graphic designer will never invoke their Intellectual property rights. However if you don’t pay the bill or you have some other conflict you may be in danger of being made to pay extra to use material that you thought you owned or worse be fined!

In fact, ANY alterations done to the original work of a graphic designer without their permission is unlawful.

Many accept this is inevitable but some may not.

Unless you have a specific written agreement or it is stated in the terms and conditions you have agreed to, you do not own copyright.

You own intellectual property if you:

  1. created it or
  2. bought intellectual property rights from the creator or previous owner.

Copyright includes, works of art, photos, pictures, graphic design, drawings, and images, songs, music, sound recordings, books, manuscripts, publications, and other written works, plays, movies, shows and other performance arts.

A trademark protects words, phrases and logos used in regulated commerce to identify goods or services.

You cannot copyright words, titles, trade names or slogans but you can apply to trademark them.

  • © – ownership of the creator, copyright protects your work and stops others using it without your permission
  • TM – un-registered – a trademark is the symbol which represents a company or business, this can be used under copyright of the creator
  • R – a Trademark that has been officially registered.
  • Patent – protects an invention, something that can be made or used, not something that already exists and has been modified

In summary, you are not allowed to legally use other people’s work without permission. You cannot just download and use material and content from the internet just because you ‘can’.

Check who owns your logo!

Written by Angie Phillips, Design Consultant - Helping you create business by creating IMPACT! Fabulous effective design that makes you say WOW! Using my expertise to promote yours. Fiercely committed to my clients and getting my hands on your assets! Always happy to offer help and advice. Promoting and helping you to grow through networking & introductions even after our work is done. #CreatingBusinessByDesign  #CreatingIMPACT  #LOVEwhatIdo

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