Discover more from Logo Histories' Extra Issue
Similarities among trademarks, 1973
Yasaburo Kuwayama explores the similarities that arise in trademark design for his book Trademarks & Symbols Volume 2: Symbolical Designs.
Problems of similarity of trademarks used by different companies arise fairly often. When a new trademark is announced to the public and is then found to resemble an existing one used by a different company the public and the company which may suspect that its own design has been copied - react immediately. Similarities between the Osaka EXPO '72 mark and a design published in an American book were brought to the public eye in 1966 (Asahi newspaper, September 29) and suspicion that the snowflake motif in the Sapporo Olympics mark was taken from a family crest named "First snow" was similarly published in the Japanese press (Asahi newspaper. October 10, 1966). This is one manifestation of the high public interest in marks.
Logo Histories' Extra Issue is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
There are many instances when similarity arises from the need to keep marks simple. especially when letters of the alphabet are used as the basic motif. If a design which resembles an existing one is placed in use and the designer is accused of plagiarism, it may not be his fault at all, but he may be unable to fully clear his name. If all marks made in all countries were registered at one central place this, of course, would not happen. Large companies, active in foreign countries, must take special pains to ensure that a new trademark which they plan to use does not resemble one in use abroad.
Similarities in trademarks are looked upon as either of three types, according to Japanese law: those which have a similar appearance, those which have a similar arrangement of letters (including a similar pronunciation of those letters) and those which are similar in concept. In the latter case, one example would be a trademark consisting of the word ‘Oriental’ and a trademark which said, but in Sino-Japanese characters, the equivalent translation of ‘Oriental’.
Judging whether a trademark is too similar to a previously existing one is extremely difficult, and the practices for legal review of the issue vary from country to country. Here, I would like to present my standards for de-terming whether two marks are too similar.
First, similarity of over-all form even though the concept and motif are different. Second, although the forms are dissimilar, the images presented appear the same, so that confusion is likely to occur when the two are seen separately. Third, when the trademarks appear the same if one is turned upside down, reversed or rotated 45 degrees - because trademarks are not always used or seen directly from the front. If any of these conditions are met, the designs are too similar.
Even though a designer has labored long and hard to create a trademark, if he finds that it resembles another trademark already in use, he should feel obliged as a matter of professional ethics to revise or re-do his design.
If you enjoy reading this also check out and support these projects:
Brand Archive (Beta) – Research tool for brand designers.
LogoArchive Website – Searchable modernist logo archive & research tool.
LogoArchive Shop – Vintage design books & LogoArchive Zines.
BP&O – Contemporary design editorial.
About Logo Histories’ Extra Issue
Logo Histories' Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.