Work for hire: Copyright protects original works of art. Logos generally are copyrightable if they are original. Companies can register the copyright with the US Copyright Office and, armed with the registration certificate, can enforce against infringement.
Almost all of my clients (and us) use outside designers to create our logos and other marketing collateral. Although I personally have never seen a case where the designer comes back and claims IP rights against the designer without executing a work-for-hire agreement clearly delineating that the company, as opposed to the designer, will own the design, the lack of a work for hire generally has three main issues:
- It will be difficult, if not impossible, to register the copyright and enforce against third-party infringement.
- It will create an issue with company financing, merger, or acquisition as the IP title is unclear.
- The designer may recycle the design (as they own it, not you). In general, these works belong to the company, but a clearly written agreement can help prevent any confusion or disputes about ownership.
Although there is a legal presumption that the work is a “work for hire, ” if your designer is an employee,” that is not always the case. Accordingly, it is important to reinforce the same work-for-hire provisions in an employee relationship. Many companies do this, e.g., the employee handbook or designer branding guidelines.
Regardless of who you are working with, a work-for-hire agreement should be in writing. Unwritten assumptions lead to legal conflict.
EmergeCounsel has sample work-for-hire agreements on file, which it is glad to provide to our clients and friends.
Feel free to contact us.