IP, Technology & Data

Last week saw the unveiling of the logo for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Amid the fanfare, it was quickly observed that the 2014 logo is very similar to a logo produced by the same design agency for The Common Guild, a Glasgow based arts organisation.

There is no suggestion that the organisers are anything but very happy with the 2014 logo. The explanation which appears on their site, of the thinking behind it, suggests it has been very carefully thought out to meet the design brief. But this example does provide a good reminder of some basic issues which should be addressed by any purchaser of graphic design work.

  1. Make sure that you have a written contract with the design agency, which expressly deals with ownership of copyright (and other intellectual property rights) in your new designs. If there is no contract, or the contract doesn’t deal with this, the design agency will own the copyright in the designs and your right to use them will be an implied licence. (This leads to uncertainty as to what use is licensed (permitted). For example, the design agency may demand payment of additional fees to consent to e.g. an amendment to the original logo.)
  2. As the client commissioning the designs, you should ask the design agency to assign (transfer) the copyright in the designs to you. If the design agency refuses to do so, then make sure that you have a clear licence to use the logo, for no additional payment (other than the fee which you have paid for the design work), for all the purposes that you can reasonably foresee at the time of commissioning.
  3. If the design agency retains ownership of the copyright in “your” designs, remember that it could validly make the same or similar designs available to another client or clients. Consider including a contractual restriction to prevent this. You may also want to ask for a warranty (a contractual promise) that the agency has not already supplied the designs to someone else – i.e. that your logo is not second hand.
  4. As well as intellectual property rights in the logo itself, consider the trade mark issues arising from using your new logo. Look carefully at what your contract with the design agency says about this. Is it your responsibility to have a trade mark clearance search carried out, to check that your use of the logo in respect of your goods and/or services won’t infringe anyone else’s trade mark? If it is, then remember that you will have to budget separately for that clearance search.

In summary, just because you have paid for your logo, does not mean that you own the rights in it or that it is exclusive to you. It is important, therefore, to address these issues in the design contract, to avoid difficult discussions (and possible additional costs) at a later date.

IP and Technology