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Innocent logo dispute provides much food for thought

13 February 2015

Who owns the copyright in graphic work such as logos prepared by design agencies on behalf of their clients is not as straightforward as it might seem when the parties have not made their position clear at the outset of the relationship.

Two companies faced prolonged and difficult litigation involving hearings at the European trade mark office and the Chancery Division of the High Court as they tried to untangle what was actually agreed over the ownership of the copyright in a now famous logo for the Innocent smoothie brand.

The absence of a formal agreement created a complicated and expensive debate of fact, as to what were the terms of the relationship and law, concerning the legitimacy of an apparent assignment of copyright. In the dispute between Fresh and its one time agency the Innocent logo was found to belong to that company but the decision could have gone the other way because the judge’s findings of fact could have led to a different result.

The decision highlights the importance of investing resources in making contracts clear in order to keep the litigation lawyers at bay.

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