Would you say the designer of this logo "borrowed" his design

printninja's picture

I am currently trying to convince the head of a company called Top Gun Sports Entertainment that their new corporate logo (which they supposedly have Trademarked with a Manhattan trademark attorney,) is a stolen design.

I gain nothing either way. I just want to know if I am ethically out of line. As a designer, I would be mortified to try and sell this logo to a company as an original work. As a corporation, I'd feel foolish using it, but the guy I'm arguing with seems to be without conscious.

What do you all think?

BlueStreak's picture

I think they shouldn't hold their breath waiting on the cease and desist letter from Paramount. They may have received a trademark from the USPTO. But I don't think it has a chance of standing up to an appeal from Paramount. Beyond the trademark problem is the problem of copyright. Even if they win the trademark case, I think their use of this as a logo will be destroyed as a blatant violation of copyright.

malbright's picture

I've seen the studios slap cease and desist orders for less blatant plagaries than this one. Since your client has no concern for ethics, appeal to his wallet: Help him realize that by using a stolen logo he is in jeopardy. He'll spend a lot of money producing stuff with this logo, and quite likely if Paramount sees it they're going to make him throw it all away. His silly trademark "registration" means nothing. You are not ethically out of line for trying to get him to do an original logo; quite the opposite. Would you be ethically out of line to anonymously send a copy of his ripoff to Paramount legal and let them convince him what to do? Probably. But it sure would be fun.

bojev's picture

They already have a website up using it - this should be an interesting case - they did not even change the letterforms.

blank's picture

Try convincing them that it looks like five minutes worth of Photoshop hackery? Between the name and the logo I thought that this was a very manly porn company.

dezcom's picture

Just let them get what they deserve if they won't listen to you.


Si_Daniels's picture

>I am currently trying to convince

If the boss of the company won't admit there's any connection between his logo and that of the popular 80's movie with the same name as his/her comapny then he/she's either having fun with you, or is acting on the advice of their lawyers. Either way in this case I can't think that any 'blame' lies with the designer, and as someone else mentioned it's unlikely a professional logo designer was invovled with it.

jlt's picture

Aren't they both simply a very close adaptation of the "top gun" badge/patch design issued by the Navy? Certainly the Navy isn't going to sue Paramount for adapting a (non-copyrighted, Government-created) logo for their brilliant bit of marketing / propaganda, so why would Paramount care if someone else ripped it off?


aluminum's picture

Excellent point, JLT.

BlueStreak's picture

I searched the USPTO site and you are right. It looks like the Department of the Navy has registered that trademark. My guess would be that Paramount actually created the mark and it has been given to the Navy as part of the many dealings that go into producing and marketing a movie like that. Either way I'm certain there is a legal deal established for licensing the rights to use that mark by Paramount. Just like there had to be a mountain of legal documents covering the use of all of the Navy jets, ships, personel and property used to film the movie.

So maybe you are right and we are making unfounded assumptions. Just like I assume that a corporation like Paramount has negotiated usage rights for that registered trademark, maybe the company printninja mentions has licensed the usage of that mark too.

printninja's picture

The guy I spoke with doesn't seem to care. My guess is they had a "friend of a friend who knows computers" design this for them. I'd eat my cordless mouse if they hired a pro, or got permission from the Navy.

I really don't care if this company gets sued. I was just trying to give them a bit if friendly advice, because at one time they were looking to build a motorsports complex in our County.

As a professional designer, I feel tempted to "drop the dime" on them, because this stuff really ticks me off, but at the same time I have no need of enemies.

I'm sure they'll get noticed, eventually.

Nick Job's picture

Maybe he's so confident because he actually registered the logo in the late 70's it was the Navy and Paramount that ripped him off.

Nick Job's picture

I once had a logo with a swuush and it said "NICK" next to it but I let someone else have the idea because I felt sorry for them.

printninja's picture



Yeah, but you'd you SPELL it?

Space Invader's picture

IMHO I would seriously consider taking out professional indemnity insurance to cover yourself if you have any connection at all with this logo, even 'friendly advice' could be deemed as professional advice in a law court.


fredferp's picture

I didn't remember that the TOP GUN movies is where "he" and "she" met. He (Tom Cruise) lost a bit of weight for his last movie. I saw him on the TV just the past couple of weeks. Wish I could lose weight AND not have any ill effects.

A few years ago, there was a robber who wore a 'TOP GUN' hat when he did his heists. Wonder if Paramount could prosecute him for Trademark infringement? (Of course, I believe HE REALLY had a working gun). Don't know if he'll get that hat back after serving time.

Of course its an obvious infringement. Call Paramount and see how much they would pay you to tell them about someone infringing copyright. I wouldn't point it out to them without compensation.

TGaskin's picture

I'm sure SOMEONE has contacted Paramount by now. ;)

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I'm with Dezcom -- let 'em slam right into that wall. It seems like you've done your best to let them know what they are doing, now it's their decision. Don't feel guilty.

printninja's picture

I have no connection to this job whatsoever, and my advice was given via private messenger under an alias. There is virtually no way it could ever be traced back to me. I've been chatting online since the early 80's, so I've learned to never reveal the "real me" to someone I can't see :-)

timd's picture

Applauding your motives and acting as the Devil’s advocate, but why would anyone accept advice from a correspondent who takes steps to be anonymous?


dezcom's picture

Seems it worked out for a guy named "Deepthroat" a few decades back :-)


Hildebrant's picture

There is still protection offered under parody law, that should be taken into consideration.

Lex Kominek's picture

Amateur small businesses often modify an existing logo to suit their needs. It's a fact of life, just like people who insist on setting memoranda in Comic Sans. Since you say you have no connection to the business, just ignore it, or if it's really ticking you off, contact Paramount. You'll run into this sort of thing a lot more in the future, and there's not much you can do about business owners with no marketing sense.

- Lex

Uli's picture

> stolen design

I do not like the expression "stolen design", as it is a legal misnomer.

The movie "Top Gun" came out in 1986, i.e. 21 years ago, but design patents are only granted a period of protection of 14 years in the United States. Therefore the "Top Gun" design, provided it had been registered at all in 1986, is public domain since 7 years.

See "35 U.S.C. 173 Term of design patent": "Patents for designs shall be granted for the term of fourteen years from the date of grant."

BlueStreak's picture

Uli, this is an issue of trademark, which is renewable every ten years forever. And an issue of copyright, which is good until seventy years after the creator's death. Otherwise Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and every other protected brand in the US would be out of business. Just for fun I dare you to open a store in the USA and call it Wal-Mart to prove me wrong. They've been using that logo exclusively for decades now.

The Top Gun logo used above is a stolen trademark. And the owners of that trademark will object.

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