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Logo Design Legal Question

  1. JasonCulley profile image60
    JasonCulleyposted 5 years ago

    Hopefully somebody here can help me out? 

    A few years back I designed a logo for a friend.  The friendship turned sour and I received an email from this former-friend demanding that I remove the logo from an online portfolio of my work.  There was no contract or agreement made and I received no monetary compensation for the design.  My question is legally can I use the image of the logo in my online portfolio?  Can I still request payment or ask him to stop using the logo?  I don't really want to pursue the payment or ask him to stop using the logo option, I just want to keep using the image as an example of my work.  But if he continues to demand I stop using it I want some ammo to return fire. 

    Anybody else ever been through something like this or know somebody who has?

    Thanks for any good advice or a point in the right direction.

  2. sunforged profile image68
    sunforgedposted 5 years ago


    Not legal advice, as Im not qualified.

    But, with no written agreement and no transfer of money or favor I would say the design and all rights to it are held by you.

    His request for removal would be ignored. If he would like exclusive rights to a design YOU created, he should be paying for those rights.

    I can point to copyright law and state that any work you create is completely yours to use as you wish - even if the work WAS PAID FOR - unless your contracts stated otherwise.

    With no agreement at all? then all the rights to the work are still yours. Oral agreements do count! in contract law but not when in comes to passing of usage rights and licenses, that has to be in written form.

    The above is just my understanding of my rights as a graphic designer/artist. I could easily have misphrased something or been very wrong.

    So I Did some googling and this looks like a good start:

    http://cpm.aiga.org/legal_issues/copyri … -designers

    1. JasonCulley profile image60
      JasonCulleyposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      Sunforged . . . I definately won't take it as legal advice.  Thanks for the response and I think I came up with the same conclusions as you in my research.  I will definately check out the link you posted.

  3. LuisEGonzalez profile image82
    LuisEGonzalezposted 5 years ago

    It would depend heavily on who registered the logo first. If your friend registered the logo before you did (assuming you have) your only recourse is to prove that you were the creator. Simple notes, doodles, drafts of the design, witnesses etc...and then they must be connected to a time period. I doubt that your friend will pursue any other legal recourse unless he  absolutely knows that there is no way for you to proof creation.

  4. theherbivorehippi profile image84
    theherbivorehippiposted 5 years ago

    As far as I know, the other person has to stipulate that you cannot use the work in anyway (as an example or otherwise)ahead of time and you have to agree to it. We have this sort of thing come through the forums from time to time on Elance, not just for writers but for logo designers, etc., as well.

    We are entitled to use any work as an example unless the buyer says up front that we can't and that all rights are granted to them. Some buyers will even send over an agreement to sign, others are satisfied with an agreement in the workroom since it's documented and agreed upon and a lawyer could very easily request a copy of workroom records.

    From my experience, you have the right to use that logo providing you have not entered an agreement that states otherwise. Again, I can only go from experience. smile

    1. sasta10 profile image80
      sasta10posted 5 years ago in reply to this

      If no legal agreement is sgined for transfer of logo then you have all rights to the design as you have designed it.  I think you can even stop him from using your logo as there is nothing he could use to claim its his logo.  Thanks.

  5. Lyn.Stewart profile image90
    Lyn.Stewartposted 5 years ago

    Unless he brought the logo off you he has a legal obligement to have your name as the creator of said logo when he uses it.

    If you havn't done so register it as yours. This way not only can you use it you can sell it to someone else. Though if you sell it you can't use it anymore as you sell the rights to it's use

    Since you are the creator of the logo and you havn't sold it you can use it. You can also stop your ex friend using it.

    Once you register it you can demand your friend either pays you for the logo. (then he has the rights to its use and you don't) - In saying that you can draw up a sales document that states you may use the logo on your page to show what your have designed and for what company.

    Legally if he has not paid you for the rights to the logo it remains your private property. I would suggest that next time you create a dated paper trail.

  6. LuisEGonzalez profile image82
    LuisEGonzalezposted 5 years ago

    OK..forget who created it, and anything said, or permission...who paid or who didn't.

    In the absence of a written contract/agreement ; formal or informal;

    If your friend registered the logo as his, before you did, and you have no way of proving that you created it, you do not have any legal recourse and must stop using it... it's unfair but it's the way things work. yikes

    1. theherbivorehippi profile image84
      theherbivorehippiposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      No....his friend has no way of proving that he owns the rights to be using the logo.

  7. Simply Jess profile image61
    Simply Jessposted 5 years ago

    If you can prove that you create the logo, then legally he cannot use it. Plagiarism applies to graphics as well. Your work is your own for a reason. Legally they should be required to credit the work as yours for them to be able to use it.

  8. psycheskinner profile image84
    psycheskinnerposted 5 years ago

    As others have said, any creative work is copyrighted to the creator. It can be transferred to another person only by signed contract.

    So, the only one who has the right to demand that the logo be removed from anywhere... is you.

    If you have any old drafts or raw files, put them in a safe place in case you need them to prove that it is your creation.

  9. JasonCulley profile image60
    JasonCulleyposted 5 years ago

    Thanks everybody for the replies, they have been very helpful!  The logo has not been registered or copyrighted officially by either of us.

    This is from the article sunforged posted the link to which was very helpful (http://cpm.aiga.org/legal_issues/copyri … -designers).

    "What is Copyright?

    Copyright is the exclusive right to control reproduction and commercial exploitation of your creative work. Copyright protects any kind of artwork, including illustrations, photographs and graphic design. Except under certain circumstances (see “work made for hire” below), you own the copyright in your work at the moment you create it in a “fixed” form of “expression.” A fixed form of expression is any tangible medium that can be perceived by humans, including traditional forms—such as paintings, sculptures, writings—and new forms that require a machine to perceive (e.g., GIF files, CDs, websites).

    What about “work made for hire”?

    Generally, the person who creates a work is considered its “author” and the automatic owner of copyright in that work under copyright law. However, there is a limited exception under the “work made for hire” doctrine: if you are an employee, your employer is considered the author and automatic copyright owner of any work you create within the scope of your employment. In most cases, this doctrine applies only to full-time employees. If you are doing the work as an independent contractor, your work can legally be “work made for hire” only if your contract specifically says so, and your work fits one of a few narrow categories, e.g., a contribution to a collective work such as an encyclopedia, or a compilation work, such as a website."

    1. LuisEGonzalez profile image82
      LuisEGonzalezposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      OK then, if you want to take ownership and use the logo, then register it (copyright) Afterwards send your friend a copy of the registration/copyright.

  10. Mighty Mom profile image92
    Mighty Momposted 5 years ago

    The work is copyrighted automatically.
    If you choose to formally register it (why would you -- you only want to include it in your online portfolio) you could demand that HE stop using it.
    If you don't care that he uses it (which, given that it is a LOGO and it's good promotion for your business, regardless of where it appears), then simply write to him and inform him he has no legal claim to it and it is legally your creation and you have every legal right to show it as an example of your work without his permission. Operative word being LEGAL.

    If the friendship is truly dissolved and he's pissing you off with his demands, you could word the response more harshly. E.g., Check your facts, dude. You didn't pay me for this work and you don't own it. I own it. Mess with me again and I'll come after YOU and state that you stole my idea. Is that really what you want? Really????

    (can you tell I'm in a feisty mood? tee hee). Good luck, MM

    1. LuisEGonzalez profile image82
      LuisEGonzalezposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      The copyright suggestion is BECAUSE a legal issue seems to be in the horizon, especially if there is money associated with it. It is always advisable just to be safe.

      By copyrighting the logo full verifiable ownership is established and that's the end of it. Otherwise someone else, like a "friend" can claim that he created it the logo or gave the idea for it, co-created etc...and in a legal endeavor this can drag on ....get it ?
      Link of relevant fees   ;http://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html yikes  cool

  11. sunforged profile image68
    sunforgedposted 5 years ago


    Copyright Registration is not necessary to get copyright protection (at least in US law) - but is suggestible if a lawsuit is on the horizon.

  12. Mighty Mom profile image92
    Mighty Momposted 5 years ago

    Correct. Although why spend the money to register a logo for someone else's business just so you can keep a copy of it on your website?
    Just tell the ex-friend he has no legal basis.
    If he thinks he can come after you, let him try to hire a lawyer to help him. He doesn't have a leg to stand on. He didn't pay you for the logo. It's not his!