A victim of potential copyright and trademark infringement, Kate Symonds shares her story and tips for creating and protecting a logo.
A recent situation with our Norfolk glampsite has highlighted the importance of having a business logo created specifically and originally for us and subsequently taking the right measures to protect it. Round the Woods has been the victim of potential copyright and trademark infringement on two occasions and we wanted to share our experience in the hope it can help other glampsite owners.
A logo can be a key part of creating a brand identity as well as representing the first impression and communicating the values of a business. After two years of running Round the Woods, using an initial logo designed by a friend and feeling our way through what we wanted our brand to represent, we decided to embark on a rebrand.
In 2017 we worked with a graphic designer, via People Per Hour, to meticulously create a new logo for Round the Woods. We looked for a designer who had great testimonials and who demonstrated early on with his initial sketches that he understood our business and would be able to bring original design ideas to the logo creation. The process was lengthy, with over 80 messages back and forth, beginning with a rough sketch we’d hand drawn, deciding on the key elements, narrowing down the design from many iterations and then focusing on colours, fonts, and the finer details. This process resulted in a logo and brand elements that we absolutely love and believe clearly represent our family run glampsite.
You can imagine our surprise and concern when in April 2021 our friends came across a glampsite called The Secret Garden in Lancashire using the Round the Woods logo as the background to their logo, having simply placed a pod and hot tub on top to make it represent their business.
My first step was to contact my local council who put me in touch with a trademark solicitor offering a free 30 minute online meeting about our situation. Her advice was to contact the owners and to inform them that they had breached copyright and potentially trademark as well through the use of our logo and that they needed to promptly remove our logo from it’s association with their business. She also suggested we begin the process to register the trademark for our logo as this would provide us with a stronger level of legal protection.
Having used People Per Hour we knew that we held the copyright for the finished design but to be honest we hadn’t even considered registering the trademark for our business. Without the registered trademark there was still a potential copyright infringement however for “passing off”, which involves misrepresentation of products or services as being associated with another business, which would be more challenging to fight in court if it had to go to that stage.
On investigation we discovered that The Secret Garden had opened their glampsite after lockdown in 2020 and had been using our logo for almost a year, having commissioned it using the Fiverr website. They were very surprised to hear it was our logo, having not intentionally copied it and, on investigating, they discovered that their designer had downloaded it from a free stock image website.
The owner of The Secret Garden glampsite subsequently came across The Little Yurt Meadow on the Welsh borders using our exact logo to represent their yurt glampsite, apparently also having downloaded it from a stock image website. He assumed this was a sister company to Round the Woods, as anyone else would do on discovering the exact same logo for two similar businesses.
I was shocked to discover that genuine business logos can be found freely downloadable online and that some designers falsely use these logos to create a design for another business, although it is probably not so surprising when you see how little is charged for logo creation on some platforms. A logo or design can be uploaded to a free image website by anyone, highlighting why legal protection is so crucial.
We discovered our logo on several PNG and clipart websites and thankfully it was promptly removed, although interestingly on each of these websites the logo was tagged as both Round the Woods and Norfolk, and in some instances it even had our business name as part of the image, all of which was clearly ignored by the logo designers who were passing off these designs as available to be used. This highlights the importance of the business owner to check that they are not in breach of any copyright or trademarks when using an image for your business.
We have been in contact with both glampsites and have asked them to remove our logo and all elements of it from their branding. Fortunately both have cooperated having been informed and have apologised for the mistaken use of our logo. The Little Yurt Meadow quickly replaced our logo with a different one on their website and social media channels. The owner of The Secret Garden is, understandably, quite attached to elements of the logo they had been using for almost a year and has now changed the trees and remove a few details so that it is no longer as similar.
After these experiences, we now have the registered trademark for our logo as well as our business name, which provides us with a stronger position legally and would make any potential future legal challenges more affordable. This is a step we would recommend all businesses apply for once you have a logo or business name that you feel represents your business as it will provide protection against anyone who copies your brand identity.
Tips for Creating and Protecting a Logo
• Work with a reputable designer to create original artistic work to represent your business and ensure that you own the copyright of the completed design. Ensure you are paying the designer for their time and creative ideas as well as the experience required to create something that will portray your business. Do not expect someone to create a logo from scratch for very little money.
• Ignorance is unfortunately not an excuse – it is the business owner’s responsibility to ensure that they are not in breach of copyright or trademark infringement through the use of their logo or business name, and due diligence is required – make sure your designer is not copying another business’s design.
• Register the trademark for your logo with the Government Intellectual Property Office (www.gov.uk/how-to-register-a-trade-mark) to give you protection from trademark infringement. Each registered trademark costs around £170 and lasts for 10 years.
• Do a search online periodically to see if your logo appears on free image websites or if other businesses are using it, and promptly request that it is removed. You can easily do this on Google by visiting Google Images, clicking the camera icon in the search bar and uploading your logo. You can then search for similar images.
About the Author
Kate Symonds is co-owner of Round the Woods, a glampsite in Norfolk with yurts and a unique roundhouse constructed from strawbales. www.roundthewoods.co.uk