How do I know that the logo designed for me by a freelancer isn't copyrighted?
I have given a logo design work to a freelancer. How do I know that the logo he designed is not copied from some other company? Should I just take his word for it? I am worried about copyright issues in the future.
Hello Vamsi, A good place to start would be to upload the logo and do a Google image search. Use this URL https://www.google.com/imghp and click the picture icon in the search field to open up the upload dialog. I do recommend that you have the word "logo" in your file name because Google will look at the file name as well as the picture for clues to match. Good Luck!
You should check with Google image like Damon proposed but what will cover you best in the future is to have your contractor sign a contract where he stipulates he is the owner of the copyright, and sole responsible in case of copyright infringement.
Don't take his word, have him sign a contract!
In the UK, a recent change in the Copyright law means that even for commissioned works the copyright initially belongs to the person creating it. I would agree with Marc Augier that you would be best to have some form of contract with the designer in which he confirms that any design is his/her original work and has not simply been copied from somewhere else, but in addition any such agreement should also confirm that the copyright in the work so created is assigned to you - a copyright assignment must be in writing in order to be effectively transferred under UK law. (By reason of the Berne Convention, this same right applies to the owners of foreign copyrights also).
I would also further agree with Mark that it is probably also a good idea to register the logo as a trade mark - in this regard, if you are going to be selling goods or providing services under the logo in foreign jurisdictions, then you will also need to register the logo in those jurisdictions. Many jurisdictions provide rights only by way of registration, not use, of a logo (mark).
What about the copyright of my Logo Design?
Once you have ordered a Logo Design, and have made full payment, you are the legal outright copyright owner of the final Logo Design. You are able to trademark the Logo Design. However, in case you exercise your right for money back, the copyright would automatically belong to the designer. A Consultation with a trademark attorney is encouraged.
I'm going to pipe up and address what nobody else seems to have done here: the issue of trust. Quite frankly, as an independent communication professional, I'm disturbed by your lack of trust in the supplier you chose to create your logo design. If I was the designer, I would be offended by it. Professional designers and communicators (I am an IABC member) have ethics and we don't steal other people's copyrighted work because we have inherent knowledge of copyright. If you are going to choose an independent design partner, you should be choosing someone whom you want to establish a long-term relationship with; someone who can handle all your design needs, not just a one-off logo. But your mistrust is unfortunately establishing you as a client this designer would not want to work with again. Think about this: If you were, for example, to hire me to write your marketing communications copy, would you also question whether I had plagiarized material from someone else's brochure or website? I would be offended, and I certainly would not want to have you as a client. From my perspective, adding value for you and meeting your needs, starts with building a strong, trusted relationship. Now… with all of this said, you should have had a written contract with the design that assigns the logo copyright/trademark to you. Because as others have mentioned, modernized copyright laws (in Canada and the UK, at least), stipulate that the copyright of the design belongs to the person who designed it. You could reach an agreement giving you copyright, but also that gives the designer the right to use the logo in his/her promotional materials as an example of work done for clients. Since you're in the U.S., you can register ® it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.) You can also have the designer put a (™) after it. This is an unofficial registered trademark -- meaning you are claiming first usage and it would give you grounds to take action against anyone down the road who came up with an identical design or tried to use your logo without your permission.
Do boolean searchs for the name on the USPTO.gov site. I would spend the $500. And federally register the name/logo. Then you're certain. I'm no attorney but anyone can claim a copyright based on previous uses of the same names and is why federally registering it is the only true way to protect it in the future.
Any copyrightable design is copyright protected as soon as it is created by the creator unless the design can be considered a "work for hire." Freelancers, or independent contractors, are not work for hire unless an agreement with them specifically states that. So your concern, which is valid, is that the freelancer has accurately and honestly represented to you that he/she is the original creator of the design and therefore has the right to assign the design to you.
You can search the U.S. Copyright Office database (http://copyright.gov/records/index.html) to see if the design is registered as a copyright but copyright registrations are not necessary to have a copyright in a work. And any search like the others suggest would not be full proof since there is no clear and systematic method of searching designs.
What you need to do is have the freelancer sign an agreement stating that he/she assigns all copyright rights in the design to you/your company and that he represents and warrants that he is the rightful owner of the copyright with the ability to assign same to you. That agreement should contain an indemnification provision which states that if you get sued for copyright infringement because the design was copied, then the freelancer will reimburse you for any loss and damages incurred, including paying for your defense against the copyright infringement claim.
A good designer wont rip something off. Sometimes it does happen unknowingly, however part of what you pay for is a professional who makes sure your work is genuine. If it has indeed been copied, then the responsibility falls on the designer to alter it, or purchase permissions.
Run a search image here on Google Image (https://www.google.com/imghp) to see if they find a matching image or similar ones. Open your *.jpg logo image copy on Google Chrome or Firefox web browser, then, drag and drop it inside the Google Image search box. After searching, Google Image will show you matching images or at least similar look alike ones for you to judge. Good luck.
Did you sign a legal agreement with the freelancer and was it stated in the agreement that your logo will be a 100% unique and new work specifically for you (and that you own all rights to it when completed)? If not, I'd worry. If you are not signing an agreement with that stated in it, you're not working with a professional, period.
A blog I've previously written goes more into detail about copyright and trademark infringement with logos: http://www.jvmediadesign.com/blog/design/thinking-about-crowdsourcing-your-logo/