Logo Copyright Infringement
Logos help distinguish a business from its competition, and are critically important symbols of a brand’s identity and purpose. But when crooks commit logo copyright infringement, they’re robbing more than a design. They’re also stealing the equity of your brand, damaging the long-term reputation and success of your business.
Logo infringement can be avoided by copyrighting a logo design as soon as possible. While it may be tempting to hold off until your business skyrockets to success, waiting gives intellectual property thieves the opportunity they need to take and twist your property to their advantage. That’s why it’s so important to officially copyright your work and make sure your rights are protected and enforced.
Understanding logo/brand copyright law
According to the U.S. Copyright Act at 17 U.S.C. 106, when a logo or brand mark is copyrighted, the designer “owns” it and has exclusive rights to it. Those ownership rights include:
- The ability to reproduce the logo.
- The ability to create derivative works based on the logo.
- The ability to publicly distribute copies of the logo via sale, transfer of ownership, or even by rental, lease, or lending.
- The ability to publicly display their logo.
The main exception is if the work was created “for hire.” If a logo was created as a by-product of freelance contract work or employment, then the resulting work is the property of the hiring party. But if you are the legitimate owner, it’s best to register your IP with the U.S. Copyright Office as soon as possible.
What if my logo was stolen before registering my copyright?
That’s ok! You still have options! If your logo design or brand identity wasn’t registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before it was stolen it just means that you can only recover “actual damages” as opposed to “statutory damages.”
Actual damages are most often calculated using a designer’s normal license fees and/or standard licensing fees. Any profits gained from the infringement may be added to the actual damages as well. However, those numbers can be difficult to quantify, so it’s always best to copyright your work as soon as possible so you can pursue statutory damages instead.
Statutory Damages vs. Actual Damages
If a company uses your logo to create and sell merchandise for profit, then actual damages are quite simple to calculate. But oftentimes the actual damages are more complicated and harder to determine.
However, if your work was copyrighted before it was stolen, you can pursue the predefined range of financial damages under law 17 U.S. Code § 504(c). These are statutory damages and can be much simpler to pursue.
Amounts for statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000. The final amount will be determined at court, but if the court deems it necessary, they can increase that number all the way up to $150,000. You can see why it really pays to protect your work BEFORE it gets stolen!
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Video Footage Infringement
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