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Do you understand copyright issues in design?

Compliance with the law is important and every graphic designer or businessperson should know as much as they can about how laws affect them. Unfortunately, there are various aspects of the law which makes it difficult to grasp, especially for those not working in the legal sector. 

Intellectual property and copyright issues are essential for all graphic designers as they may encounter such issues at least once in their career. Here are a couple of issues that you should keep in mind to stay out of legal trouble.

What a copyright is and what it is not

A copyright is a concept of the law that caters for the right to duplicate original intellectual property. A person who is duly recognized by law as the holder of a logo copyright has the ability to take legal action against someone who infringes on this logo design. It is worth noting that copyright does not protect the idea that a person has but aims at protecting the expression of these ideas. The law will not protect any ideas that you may have until these ideas are expressed and recorded. While two companies may have similar ideas in their logo design, the execution of these ideas will largely determine if there are copyright issues. 

Only unique designs are protected

You cannot claim the copyright of a logo if you didn’t uniquely create or design it. For example, it is impossible to sue another business for infringing on your logo design if the logo was adopted from a free logo maker database on the internet. This is why it may be necessary to ensure that a professional designer used their creative ideas to design the logo. 

Slogans are also protected by copyright

Taglines and slogans that you create can be protected by copyright laws but this will also vary with the statement itself. Slogans with as little as two to three words may be impossible to copyright as they are extremely difficult to prove authenticity. However, a longer slogan or tagline will be protected under the law if you can establish that it is your unique creation. 

Your company’s name is not copyright protected

Copyright law will not protect the name of your business but only the unique intellectual property that you design. However, there are some passing-off legislation that helps prevent other companies from getting business at your company’s expense by adopting your name. 

The best way to protect your brand identity is through a trademark

A trademark is a legal creation which protects some of the identifying traits of your brand such as the logo. The trademark can also include a word, slogan, symbol, design and even a name that is unique to the company. The ‘TM’ or the ® symbol are some of the abbreviations that denotes a trademark is protected by copyright laws. Please note that using these symbols is illegal if the trademark is not registered. 

Most amateur designers and businessmen have little knowledge with regards to copyright laws. Failure to adhere to some of these rules on copyright infringement can your clients brand or lead to legal scuffles. 

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