Trademark protection has long been recognized as a must-have for valuable eye-catching logo designs. However, a logo copyright is often overlooked as a method for intellectual property protection. Three things must be taken care of to get the maximum value and copyright protection for your logo:
1. Register Your Logo Copyright
Although under U.S. law you have a copyright once your logo is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” (i.e., drawn on paper or digitally created as a graphics file for example), you cannot sue in court for violations of your rights until you file an application for copyright registration. Therefore, filing for a copyright registration is the first and most critical step in protecting your logo under copyright law.
2. Register Your Copyright in a Timely Fashion
When you file for a copyright registration is also critical because failure to do so as prescribed by the law can result in denial of valuable remedies-we’re talking the difference between hundreds of dollars for infringement versus hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To get statutory damages (damages set by the court within predetermined ranges, not based on proof of how much you were actually damaged) and attorneys’ fees (the defense pays your legal bills), your application must be filed within three months of first publication of your work. “Publication” generally means “distribution of copies…of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”
The court in a 2012 case involving a logo copyright belonging to a city ruled that statutory damages were not available because the city “began using” its logo almost 13 months before the effective date of registration. This case demonstrates the importance of filing for copyright registration within three months of using your logo, or you risk losing the chance to get statutory damages (maximum $150,000 per infringement in some instances) and attorneys’ fees.
3. Put Copyright Notice with Your Logo
Always put the © symbol (known as “notice”) next to your logo when displaying it, along with the year of first publication and the name of its owner. If the correct form of copyright notice is affixed to copies of your infringed logo, the defendant cannot claim “innocent infringement,” and therefore can be liable as a “willful infringer”, opening up the possibility of an award of the maximum statutory damages allowed.
The best way to ensure these steps are taken properly is to consult legal counsel before “going live” with your logo. Contact Creative Vision Legal if you need a logo copyright or counseling about protecting your intellectual property.
 City of Carlsbad v. Shah, 850 F.Supp.2d 1087 (S.D. Cal 2012).