February 19, 2023

Intellectual Property (IP) and Logo Design in Australia

Intellectual Property (IP) and Logo Design in Australia
Intellectual Property (IP) and Logo Design in Australia
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We recently completed an article on ownership of IP which used a hypothetical example of a client requesting the original working or source files from the designer for a graphic design job we created. You can read this article here - link will open in a new tab so you don’t lose your place here :).
IP laws in Australia follow the same principles when it comes to logo design.
However – when a graphic designer creates a logo or brandmark for a business or entity (let’s group them as a business from this point forward), there is an expectation that the logo can be used freely by the business for business activities and purposes as they see fit.
In the case of logos designed by OE, the business can use it as they wish without restriction or impedance by us (the author). The only instance where we could see an impedance coming into play is if the logo wasn’t paid for in full or there was an agreement in place to remunerate the designer in line with another KPI such as business sales, success or similar.

When it comes to having a logo created by OE (and the overwhelming majority of designers in Australia) you can use it as you wish.

Branding Guidelines document supplied as part of a Logo Project

When having a logo or brand identity project created for your business, you may also have a branding guidelines document created. A branding guidelines document will feature information such as fonts and typefaces that go well with or were used in your logo, positioning guidelines, colour codes and the logo in various versions (eg vertical or horizontal) and their intended use. This is a supplementary document to the actual logo/s created.
A branding guidelines document that we include in all of our logo projects, also feature mock-ups or graphical design concept/s and representations of the logo used in real-life collateral. These may include;

  • Apparel or uniforms
  • Signs
  • Stationery (business cards, letterheads, invoices, envelopes)
  • Digital device mock-ups (eg. apps)
  • Email signatures
  • Car decals
  • Marketing collateral (brochures, catalogues)
  • Packaging
  • And anything else we believe could be of benefit/use to your business

When it comes to the working/source files used to create these concepts, mock-ups and graphical representations, we don’t supply the original working files. There are many reasons for this but the main ones are;

  • We are showing you how you could use your logo and brand conceptually displayed on various collateral to assist you with your brand rollout
  • We will most likely not have all of your business details when creating them (eg your specific address, phone number/s, position title, staff names to create them with)
  • We don’t have a project brief for the specific use of the file (eg will it be used digitally, is it being printed by a commercial printer and what are their specifications for supplying the file)
  • We won’t know if the letterhead concept we created will be printed in-house on your printer (or used 100% digitally or professionally printed), so we must factor in the limitations of your printer (eg. colour, how close it prints to the paper edge etc)
  • Was the vehicle wrap we conceptualised using your specific make, model, year, variant, colour and considering any accessories you have installed that may impact the design? Was the concept using a model delivered in this country? (eg different countries usually have different lights, reflectors and other slightly different details)
  • Did the business card we conceptualise consider your print budget (eg. letterpress cards that use embossing/debossing, embellishments such as gloss varnish, Scodix, metallic foil can cost much more than a run-of-the-mill standard sized business card)
  • Was the apparel we designed in a suitable colour that can be printed to your budget or your supplier’s production method (screen print spot colour or direct to garment digital)?

Because we don’t know the constraints, limitations, artwork print specifications or their final use, we can’t just pass over the working or source files because they;

  • aren’t yet suitable for purpose (finished art)
  • can’t be taken to a supplier without modification or knowing their requirements (artwork specifications, colour format, print marks)
  • don’t know if they will be used digitally or for commercial print (different colour formatting)
  • may not be able to be read by a supplier's software - eg when they require specific file formats

Let’s run a hypothetical scenario

  • We supply the working/source files to you (and you have appropriate software to modify the details as required)
  • You send the file to a print supplier who doesn’t carefully check the files (or uses a disclaimer absolving them of responsibility for externally provided files) to suit their unique equipment specifications
  • The printer produces the job, and it doesn’t turn out as expected due to the setup or configuration of the file (eg. the colour format used was incorrect)
  • We are potentially implicated/liable for a reprint because we supplied you with a file that was not suitable for purpose

Because there are SO MANY options in professional design software for configuring a file for its intended purpose, we can’t predict how they will be used (as we have created the design purely as a concept/example). A sound knowledge of how different print processes used in production are also needed in order to provide finished art along with the supplier's specifications.
This is why professional graphic designers exist. They have the knowledge and experience to provide a file in an appropriate way to have a project produced using commercial suppliers. Yes we make it "look pretty" too, but that's only part of the equation. 

The Other Side of the Equation - Cost

Each individual project you may wish to have produced that appears in the branding guidelines document requires time to ensure that all details and configurations are checked to be suitable for production or use, including proofs and revisions (as they were designed as a stylistic concept/mock-up, not finished art). When we have a logo and branding project commissioned, we do not include budget for all of the potential scenarios and individual setup configurations and if we did, the reality is that the cost would be far greater that our current package prices.
As clients may wish to have anywhere from 2 to 20 projects commissioned from a branding guideline document we create, we feel the best (and most cost efficient) way is to simply charge for our time spent on each design project after the logo and branding project has been completed. In many cases, the cost is very small as if the design doesn't differ greatly, often we need to simply change a few details and then proof and prepare and output for print or other use.

IP Ownership of the Design Concepts

As for the Intellectual Property ownership of the conceptual designs created as part of a logo and branding project, we agree that you can have another graphic designer use them as a guide or simply copy them as closely as you like without penalty. This is why we created them for you, to show you how we intended you to use your new logo and branding.
We can’t however, give you the working/source file to take to another party.
We hope this has been helpful in understanding how logos and branding guidelines work in regard to intellectual property.
We’re always happy to chat with you further and you’re welcome to call us during business hours on 1300 494 990.

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