Legal Ownership of Logo and Brand Identity Design

marie_w's picture

I designed the logo and created the brand (letterhead, business cards, signage, advertising, etc.) for my husband's company. I did this for free and there are no contracts of any sort involved.

His business partner is trying to buy him out of the company. Currently, most of the company's worth is in the brand that I have created.

My question is, who owns the designs? Do I own them since I received no compensation and did not sign anything to release them? Would it be assumed that they were created for use by the company and thus belong to the company?

I would appreciate any guidance you could offer. Thanks!

Rhythmus.be's picture

The design will always be your intellectual property. In court, however, you will have to be able to prove that you designed the logo &c. (dated sketches, mails). Just to make sure, you could have had your designs registered, and probably should still do so. Also, one could still assume you at least silently agreed with the use of your design (which you did), what possibly might be an argument in favour of the firm's right continuing to use it.

I'd suggest you come to a personal accord with your husband's business partner. Make an estimation of the brand's value, that is, what you would charge if you were to make the designs now, in a strict business relation. The design is only part of the brand's value, since its renown probably is more the result of the company's business activities and merchandising. (Remember the CocaCola logo precedent.)

Miss Tiffany's picture

I don't have my GAG book here with me. But, from what I recall, if there was no contract signed the rights fall with the designer. (I hope others comment, and I will check the book tomorrow.)

Si_Daniels's picture

I think you'll find that the identity work is an asset of the company, the value of which should be taken into account in the partner's offer price. As it appears you provided the work to the company free of charge I can't think you're entitled to any compensation related to the sale of the company.

However now that the company is being sold, I'd suggest invoicing for the work completed based on your hourly rate and time put into it. I don't think you're going to get more than that even though you feel the company's worth is is mostly in the logo. Look at Apple - the guy who drew the logo got nothing, he's not even on Steve's Xmas card list :-(

marie_w's picture

Thank you all so much for your insight.

Based on your replies, I feel I should clarify my position. We have no intention of letting this guy buy us out. He is a bully and is trying to force us to sell, but he has no legal availability to force us out.

I had read some things that seemed to give precedent to the fact that I would own the logo, et cetera. It would give us very much the upper hand in negotiation were this true. Anyway, I'm not really interested in receiving compensation for the work per se.

Thanks again for your help! I really do appreciate it. :)

Thomas Phinney's picture

This is the juncture at which you should think about contacting a lawyer who deals in intellectual property law and the like.

I, and a number of folks who frequent this forum, have nothing but good things to say about Frank Martinez. He's a former graphic designer turned lawyer, very smart, very principled, and knows endless amounts about intellectual property law.

http://www.martinezgroup.com/index.html

Cheers,

T

(no, I don't get a cut of his profits, and he hasn't done any work for us at Adobe, at least not in many years)

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