When creating a logo for a client, should not the client be able to own all the rights to the logo? How could they if the logo incorporates an image that is copyrighted by someone else? Why would any client want to pay for a logo design that they cannot completely own? Would a company be able to obtain trademark registration for their logo if it contains an image that is merely licensed, an image actually owned by someone else?
Using stock images as part of a logo or a branding scheme is a bad idea. Doing this for a client could be exposing them to a charge of copyright infringement and it could prevent them from obtaining trademark protection for their mark.
What if we want to create a logo with an image that is "opensource?" Or an image that is in the public domain?
Again, would the client commissioning the logo design be able to completely own the mark if it contains an image that is free for anyone to use?
What would prevent two competing companies from using the same image for their respective logos? The potential for marketplace confusion seems likely, and confusion in the marketplace is something that US trademark law is designed to prevent.
So, even if an artwork supplier does not specifically forbid its use as part of a logo, it is still not a good idea for us to use images that are not original.
When we design a logo, using stock images would, in my opinion, be a disservice to the client.
Of course, we find inspiration in the work of other artists and designers. And sometimes original art may resemble other original art. This is to be expected.
What constitutes infringement?
The standard for copyright infringement is that the image in question be "substantially similar" to the original.
The standard for trademark infringement is that an image be "confusingly similar."
Of course, these are simplistic definitions of the standards. There are many factors that can come into play. And courts do not always decide the same way in similar infringement cases.
One further point, why would a designer even want to use stock images in logo design? Would this not be an admission of inferior design skills? Is this not something you would expect from an amateur rather than a self-respecting professional? I would think that our "artist pride" would become a factor. :)
Brad in Kansas City