How different can a corporate logo be but still be recognized?
A few months ago, an interesting graphic study by Graham Smith placed corporate logos front and centre as Graham “un-evolved” them into collections of circles and colours. Surprisingly enough, several of them are still recognizable at first glance. Try to recognize these corporate logos that have been un-evolved… here.
Interesting for trade-mark law is that these brands can still be recognized despite huge variations in their style. This has 2 major implications.
The test for trade-mark confusion is usually stated where at first glance at two trade-marks placed side by side, a person with “imperfect recollection” would think that the the marks appear similar enough and mistake the one brand to be associated with the other, or vice versa. These would be called “confusingly similar” trade-marks and forms the basis for a large portion of trade-mark law. What these un-evolved logos teach us is that even with vast differences, a first glance at these unevolved logos next to the originals will imply a connection with the original brand. This is extremely powerful for the owners of these easily recognizable brands as they can then challenge applicants or owners of trade-marks on a wide variety of marks which may be quite different but still confusingly similar.
I have yet to see if “un-evolving” a logo becomes a potential argument for confusion in trade-mark cases, but it is at least a fun challenge.
Colour forms an important role in trade-mark law. While claiming colour as an element of your trade-mark is optional, if it plays an important role in your marketing or display of goods, and is easily recognizable, it may be beneficial to claim that colour. You can easily see from the Sporcle game that the colour and shape of a logo may be all that you need to identify a trade-mark. Likewise, if someone is trying to pass off a product as your brand or infringe on your trade-mark, and despite the fact that they may have different words, but the colour and shape of the logo are substantially similar, you may be able to oppose them.
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