14 October 2015CopyrightJames Sweeting

The value of a logo

The Logo Board Game is fairly well-known in the UK. Using flash cards with the logos of various popular brands but without the brand name itself appearing, the aim (roughly) is to try to guess the brand with as few clues as possible—it’s not bad but gets boring after a while.

As we move even deeper into an age of digital advertising and social media, it is becoming a marketing priority for many businesses to have a shorthand for their brand: something which denotes the business, stands out as a guarantee of origin, and makes the brand instantly recognisable to consumers.

Several big brands such as Nike and McDonald’s have used logos to denote their brand for decades. Consumers see the ‘tick’ or the ‘golden arches’ and know the brand name without having to see it. Logos are now becoming important for businesses beyond the traditional consumer goods market, with financial institutions, property companies and technology firms finding logos to be just as important.

“If a brand owner devises a new logo itself, it should be careful to ensure that it keeps a clear audit trail which demonstrates the design process.”

There are essentially four phases in the lifespan of a logo: (1) creation, (2) activation, (3) registration, and (4) enforcement.

First, it has to be created. This can be an arduous process involving agencies, designers, consumer research and ‘mood boards’, or it could be as simple as someone making a few scribbles on a piece of paper. Then, a logo has to be activated by a business, which means investing in it and using it in advertising and marketing. Only through use and investment will a logo start to embed itself in the minds of consumers.

A logo may be entitled to trademark protection, which can be obtained either straight away because it is inherently distinctive or, in some cases, once it has been used sufficiently to acquire a distinctive character through use. Finally, any rights in a logo must be preserved and protected, which could involve taking enforcement action against third parties.

However, there is one further phase of the process which sometimes gets overlooked: research, clearance and due diligence.

Over recent years, several UK legal cases have demonstrated how important logos are for building brand awareness and how seriously rights owners take the enforcement of their rights. They also exemplify why that sometimes neglected phase is so important. For example:

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