The other night, I was minding my own business, casually strolling through the city when a familiar logo caught my eye. Chili’s?! I had no idea the world famous American restaurant chain had branches in England.
Photo: Google Maps
Oh wait. They don’t.
That’s a completely unconnected Indian takeaway who presumably thought no one would notice if they just nabbed a logo off the internet. And besides, they’ve removed the pepper and added an L, so that’s fair use, right?! (In actual fact, this is an older Chili’s logo – they now use just the pepper – but that doesn’t make it any more OK).
This sort of thing really boils my blood, and it’s not a one-off. Even in Nottingham.
Logo designer Jeff Fisher has a Facebook album dedicated to companies who’ve ripped off his stuff, and one of them is Nottingham-based Brown Dog Interiors. On the left is a logo Jeff designed, and on the right is one he found Brown Dog Interiors using through Google’s reverse image search:
After Fisher sent a copyright claim, he says Brown Dog responded with the following (errors theirs):
“The image was found whilst doing a general google search for dog images. there was no mention of any protection attached to the image and was found very easy time and time again on any search engine. the logo is similar in appearance but is not the same as there are some quiet obvious difference’s . i am sorry if you think that our logo is to similar to yours but the fact remains that the logo is not the same.”
Do people seriously, honestly think that if they find a logo or image using Google Image Search and it doesn’t have the word COPYRIGHTED plastered across it, it’s fair game to use? Oh, well in that case, I’ll be having this for my new startup:
After Jeff Fisher approached Brown Dog, they made some changes to their logo, namely removing the tongue and the collar medallion, and reversing the tail:
These changes were made in July 2013, and they’re still using the logo on the right today. Fisher says:
“Brown Dog Interiors seems to be buying into the myth that changing a design by 10% makes it legitimate and not a rip-off of another logo. It’s still very obvious that the image is a rip-off of the logo I designed, incorporating the illustration done by my client, Brett Bigham.”
He refers to this handy page of copyright myths, which should be required reading for every man, woman, child and dog, in our view – because this is a huge problem.
“In the past 2.5 years I have found nearly 300 infringements of my logo design work. Most are resolved with the initial email from me, most likely resulting in an “Oh, sh*t!” moment from the infringer; then followed by immediate removal of the images. Funny, companies that have invested a great deal of money into implementing the infringed design (building and vehicle signage, expensive branding/marketing marketing programs, production of wearables and more) are usually a bit more resistant to making a change. In the past I have received financial considerations and damages from such firms.”
So what next for Jeff Fisher vs. Brown Dog? Have they got away with it?
“At this point it’s really in the hands of my legal representation – as are several other copyright infringements.”
As for Chilis, they unsurprisingly did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Best of luck, Jeff. You’re fighting the good fight.
Have you seen a logo or design violation lately? Share it in the comments – let’s name and shame.