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I'm designing a logo and it looks like this:

What is the first thing that comes to your mind?

enter image description here

It is inspired by the MDN logo.

enter image description here

My logo (inside the green zone) has nothing to do with the "dinosaur" logo of Mozilla. So the question is about the frame and the arrangement of the letters (IJK in my case).

Is it plagiarism if my logo looks similar to an existing one?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I was previously familiar with the MDN logo, but no your logo did not come to mind when I saw yours. Is it plagiarism? Yes, if you used the MDN logo for inspiration then yes I'd say that's plagiarism. But not a very serious case of it.

Is it highly unethical? It depends, but probably not. A rounded rectangle with a thick black stroke isn't exactly groundbreaking design work. Is it at all unethical? Maybe a little. Mimicry is widespread in the design world. Without it, we wouldn't have design trends. If it helps you sleep at night, you can refer to it as "inspiration" instead of plagiarism.

Is it a copyright violation? I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say no. Here's a good article on this sort of thing:

Trademark, Copyright and Logos

In order for a work to have copyright protection, it must reach a requisite level of creativity. Many logos, however, do not. Since copyright can’t protect a name, colors or the design of the logo, most simple logos simply do not have the required level of creativity to be considered copyrightable. However, many ornate or artistic ones do.

What we have here is not particularly ornate or artistic. As long as your omitted logo is 100% yours, I think you're on the safe side of things.

There are lots of existing logos out there that share similarities, for companies that are presumably much bigger than yours.

Columbia logo Sun Microsystems logo

Love Barrow Community Awards logoBurlington Coat Factory logo

Sega Logo CNN Logo

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4  
Wow I never realised SEGA and CNN were so similar! Great answer! –  DumbNic Nov 24 '13 at 19:19
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Bear in mind that some companies wage what is called "lawfare": they bring suit in the hopes of crushing a competing product by forcing them to bankrupt defending themselves. There is a large lawncare manufacturer who regularly sues other companies over the use of green and yellow in packaging. –  horatio Nov 26 '13 at 15:16
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It's also worth pointing out that none of the above example pairs are competitors. They're all in very different industries to the other companies with similar logos. I imagine things would be very different if they were competing in the same trade... –  user568458 Feb 28 at 14:37

Did you use the MDN-logo as a template? Or does Google suggest the both as similar to each other?

I think the probability that people will not perceive it as plagiarism depends on the extent of perceivable differences. So I tried some analysis (as far as it was possible, if the actual logo has to be an absolute mystery):

  • your upper section is definitely not red
  • your outline is narrower
  • your aspect ratio is 13:16, MDN uses 14:16
  • you don't use the white background for your TLA
  • your font is smaller
  • (you TLA is transparent)
  • your upper part is slightly less in hight (by ca. 2%)

...but there is something left that cannot be commented, because your (real) logo is still absolutely invisible to us...

Last but not least, I have to admit, that your design doesn't convince me. And I guess that your answer to my first counter question would be yes.

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Yes, you are correct. I saw the MDN logo and I wanted to create something similar (except the dino logo of course). –  Lucas Nov 24 '13 at 17:55
    
@Lucas :) I think, you can nevertheless improve your logo design by further variation, as to grow the (inner) distance from your inspiration source. –  Wolf Nov 24 '13 at 18:11

I would agree with JohnB here, no, it is not plagiarism. As long as your logo image is not particularly similar to the MDN dino, I would say you are good.

I did not "click" your logo to the MDN either, this is a very good thing for everyone concerned: sometimes logos trigger associations that may not be good; depending on what the logo is for (say; a logo for a builders store that may be very similar to a children's TV-logo. It would be hard to take the builders store seriously).

It is a tricky area, certainly, but in the undying words of HHG2TG: don´t panic :-)

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