You might be tempted to buy a “ready-made”, generic logo you found at an online logo store. After all, it costs only $99 and you can personalize it with your business name.
Don’t do it.
A custom logo design for your business is an important part of creating a brand identity. The best logo designs are original, memorable, and a good representation of what the company does.
“Ready-made” logos that you find in logo stores do nothing to help your business stand out from among your competitors. To the contrary, generic ready-made logos sold by logo stores are purchased by multiple other businesses (this is also the reason your should avoid buying logo designs with generic design elements).
Why should you care?
Generic “ready-made” logos bought by multiple buyers expose you to legal and business risks and are ultimately, worthless.
Trademark law prevents businesses from operating under names – or using logos – that are likely to be mistaken for the name or logo of an existing competitor. For example, here’s how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark:
any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.
A service mark is similar to a trademark – but it’s used to distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others (and to indicate the source of the services).
Some people assume that if a logo is protected by copyright law, it is also protected under trademark law. This is untrue. A logo might be protected by copyright law, but is not protected by trademark law unless it is actually used in commerce. This is because trademark rights arise only through use of the logo in interstate or international commerce (such as when you offer items for sale and incorporate the logo in your marketing materials or on your products). For a primer on copyright law, I recommend you read Small Business Legal Issues: Copyright Basics.
You are not required (at least in the United States) to register your trademark or service mark with the trademark office. You can acquire “common law rights” simply by using the logo in commerce. However, to successfully assert common law rights, you must show that your logo has become a distinctive identifier associated with your business or your goods or services. It’s impossible to make this showing if you’re using a logo that is also used by dozens, hundreds, or thousands of other businesses who bought the same ready-made logo.
Similarly, if you attempt to register for trademark protection a generic logo used by many other businesses, your trademark registration will likely be refused.
Importantly, if another company – particularly one in your industry segment – is already using a very similar or identical logo based on the same generic ready-made template, you risk being sued for trademark infringement and exposing yourself – and your company – to significant legal costs.
Because of these legal and business risks, crowdSPRING has a zero-tolerance policy concerning the use of stock art and generic elements in logo projects. We require each participating designer, to disclose each time they submit a logo design, that everything in their design is their original work.
The logo is an important element of your company’s brand. Having invested time, money and resources into building that brand, you’ll find it both difficult and risky to suddenly change your brand. Don’t risk your brand to save a few dollars.
What should you do to protect yourself and avoid these legal and business risks? Run from logo stores selling generic ready-made logos to multiple buyers.
You have alternatives when buying a logo design. Pick an alternative that creates a unique identity and a cornerstone of your brand. Ready-made logos purchased by numerous other businesses cannot do this for you and will merely expose you to unnecessary legal and business risks.
Many professional freelancers can design a great, custom logo for your business. For example, crowdSPRING has a huge community of 182,000+ graphic designers who can help with your professional logo design. You can take a look at the tens of thousands of other entrepreneurs and business owners who’ve leveraged crowdSPRING’s community for a great new custom logo design. Importantly, there’s absolutely no risk to you – you are protected by crowdSPRING’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. And the process is remarkably easy and fast. You collaborate with several dozen designers at one time, see over a hundred different and unique design concepts, choose your favorite logo design, and get full rights to the work in a matter of days.
Do you have questions about generic logos, logo design or trademarks? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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