We’ve always taken the view that if we design a logo and the client pays for the design then the logo is theirs to use as they wish.
But this is not necessarily the case with all designers or design agencies.
We have in the past been aware of disputes between clients and their outgoing agency about ownership of the logo and future use of it. It seems pretty underhand if an agency on losing an account or at sometime in the future suddenly deciding that the client doesn’t actually own the logo they thought they had paid for.
Logo copyright law in the Intellectual Property (IP) Act 2014 states that designers own copyright of designs, unless a contract states otherwise.
Obviously a disagreement over copyright can cause serious problems for an established company, not only the legal cost of trying to establish ownership but the longterm branding of the company is thrown into question.
So although very few of our clients have ever asked for written proof of ownership, we would recommend all companies consider ensuring they have full intellectual copyright of their logo.
You can come at it from a different angle and say designers should make it clear that any restrictions regarding usage are made clear at the outset as part of a contract with the client. Although we can’t imagine many clients agreeing to not owning their logo for all future use. In our opinion the only way you would get this accepted by a client is if they didn’t actually read the contract.
However, a recent legal ruling found that an ‘implied’ ownership fell with the client, because it was not ‘explicitly’ written into the contract that it would stay with the designer. This makes sense. It means disreputable agencies that ‘spring’ this on a client at the end of a contract or at a parting of association will not get away with claiming ownership unless they have written it into the contract.
If a designer or design company wants to retain ownership and limit the future usage of a logo they have designed they should make it clear to the client at the beginning of a relationship, not when it has broken down.
So if you want to ensure you’re not presented with a large bill at the parting of the ways with your design agency or face fighting an expensive dispute in the courts, you should get a clear understanding and agreement about ownership and usage in writing.