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Would this be considered plagiarism?

I have made the LiveBulb logo 3 days ago, I made it all from scratch. Starting at sketches and completely refined it using grids in Illustrator.

Luka Balic immediately mailed me when he saw my logo on Dribbble, I was so polite to put it off of my account for the time being, but I would like to get some advice on whether I can use it or not, considering me and my colleagues really like the shape of the letters and angle we are using it on.

Thanks a lot for your advice!

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7  
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about law. –  DA01 Apr 2 at 20:08
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If this went to court, the fact that you pulled it off your account after their inquiry could come back to bite you. Play it safe. –  René Roth Apr 2 at 22:25
    
The stylistic similarity here is close enough that you might have trouble defending it as truly accidental. Simplest fix would be to redesign yours around a font which is of a different family than theirs. –  keshlam Apr 3 at 4:42
    
I think you've got a strong case - the main similarity is because both logos play on characteristics of the letters L and B. Luka Balic doesn't own the fact that L matches the bottom left corner of B - it's probably not a "protectible element". However, it combined with the distinctive bumps of the Bs is uncomfortably similar - if you wanted to play safe, you could adjust the top bump of your B. See also: Is it plagiarism if my logo looks similar to an existing one? –  user568458 Apr 3 at 9:13

9 Answers 9

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You should look into asking a trademark lawyer, but for my personal opinion:

  • There is a different usage in color.
  • You are using a stroke to define the B.
  • Yours is slanted.
  • The gap is less in between the separation of the | and 3.
  • The curve of the 3 doesnt match and yours appears to be higher up.
  • You aren't using a pencil.

I would suggest maybe:

  • Adjusting the thickness a little more or define the stroke to not make the overall thickness be close.
  • Separating the space between the | and 3 better, still close the other logo.

Just note that it would depend on how much you want to fight for it and if the logo is trademarked. I disagree with if it could fall under plagiarism because it would depend on how you look at it; as such and in the eyes of a judge. Are they both separated Bs yes. Is it EXACTLY like theirs? NO. In the world of plagiarism can someone look at your logo and see the other logo (which is what COULD be considered in court) possibly...

If you are worried about any confrontation and dont want to have any issues I would re-design it completely but that's just me.

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Looks like an infringement to me. Either conscious or not. They are far too similar with the rotation being the primary difference.

However, just because your idea matched a previous idea it doesn't automatically mean there was any malice in the creation.

To determine whether or not you can use it legally, you need an attorney specializing in copyright/trademark law.

The truly important question you need to ask yourself is... If you're designing a logo, any logo, and you find something previously designed which is very similar to your idea, is it worth holding onto your idea and diluting the brand you are trying to create?

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Note that the brand is only diluted if you share the same marketspace. The reality is that there are millions of logos out there. There are always similar logos (look through any Logo annual...where they often lump logos together by theme). –  DA01 Apr 2 at 20:09
    
@DA01, Luka Balic is a graphic designer, and LiveBulb appears to be the client the OP is designing for. I can't tell what industry LiveBulb is in, but I doubt it's graphic design if they've hired the OP to design for them. IANAL, but OP is probably in the clear as far as trademark-based legal action goes based on that alone. –  Brian S Apr 2 at 21:39
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While I agree that the OP is likely in the clear, the catch is that legally-speaking no one is in the clear of TM-based legal action--at least in the US. In the US you can get sued at anytime for any reason--provided there's a lawyer willing to take up the case. –  DA01 Apr 2 at 21:43

Is it plagiarism? No. Plagiarism is taking another one's work and trying to pass it off as your own. If you really did conceptualize, sketch, and design it from scratch, then you did not plagiarize.

However, those two logos are pretty similar, and I can't say you wouldn't get into hot water by releasing it. The fact that you didn't steal the design doesn't mean you didn't infringe on another's copyright -- knowingly or not. You're going to want to talk to someone with trademark/copyright law background.

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Actually, in the US at least copyright infringement has to be intentional, so if two people independently write the exact same 10-page poem, word-for-word, each owns the copyright of their own work. Patents and trademarks have different rules, however. –  Paul Apr 2 at 20:21
    
@Paul, and trademark law is what's important in this situation. –  Brian S Apr 2 at 21:32
    
@BrianS Probably, but rgthree was specifically talking about copyright, and the way trademark works is different from the way copyright works, so there are different considerations other than how close it looks, visually, as Devon mentions in her answer. –  Paul Apr 3 at 17:36

Extremely similar trademarks are often approved by the USPTO provided they are used in different kinds of business. What is LiveBulb? If it's not very possible for someone to reasonably confuse one party with another, it's probably fine. I would think the presence of the pencil distinguishes the two logos sufficiently.

There are many extremely similar (and easily confused) logos in use that seem to coexist for whatever reason. For example, have a look at this article by Scott Hanselman, "There is only one Cloud Icon in the Entire Universe"

I was also not able to find the other mark on the USPTO site (http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang=english&p_d=trmk). This doesn't mean it's not in there somewhere, but filing a trademark application takes time and money; I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't registered.

Edit: I should clarify that you don't have to register a trademark to enforce it. It's just more work without registration.

I am not a lawyer.

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I cannot comment on whether the design is legally defensible. That's the domain of lawyers, and even they may end up just saying you won't find out unless you take it to court.

However, I can suggest a change that would appear to still fit your name well and make it more substantially different:

  • Remove the gap separating L from B.
  • Change the color and/or solidly fill the stroke of the 'L' portion of your logo. (If you keep the stroke, include L-colored end cap lines.)
  • Make the new L shape use blunt edges rather than the slanted ones previously imposed by the dividing gap.

With that, you'd have a logo which looks more like the small halogen bulbs that use a silvered cone as their base, retains its construction from L and B, and no longer has any notable similarity with the other logo save for its use of those letters. That last remaining similarity alone should be far easier to defend.

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There's no 'right' answer to this.

It will all come down to lawyers.

Anyone can sue you for any reason so if someone feels your logo is too close to theirs, they can sue for Trademark infringement.

The person you need to ask this question to is an Intellectual Property Lawyer.

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They do look alike, a little bit.Simple advice, Just change it a little bit to make yours unique.You clearly have the talent.The time it would take to do that is nothing compared to the legal hassle you might get into when you publish.

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I would not consider it plagiary.

First of all it was med from scratch.

It was made whiteout the knowledge of the existing icon and the existing icon was not used as a template.

The style is similar but not the same. Its like you should not do pixel logos because it was already made. Your work is protected by artistic copy right, not the style itself. Even if it would feature a pencil, just in another way/style it would not be plagiary, but this would be a bit to close to the line.

All in all its a beautiful peace of art, its original and i don't see why not use it.

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I'm not a lawyer

Would this be considered plagiarism?

Not unless you're in college. Reality is its barely plagiarism and its unintentional plagiarism so unless you're in college working on an academic paper nobody cares.

Does this violate trademark/copyright?

Doubt it. Small logos are hard to trademark, the industry is probably different, but most importantly which nobody has brought up... Luka Balic is listed as being in Croatia. Unless you also happen to be in Croatia you have nothing to worry about.

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