Dude, that’s my logo! Who owns the copyright in Innocent smoothies trade mark?20th May 2015
This case considered the ownership of the copyright in the ‘Dude’ logo, used by the Claimant in the marketing of Innocent drinks and products. The Defendant initially successfully challenged the Claimant’s trade mark registration of the ‘Dude’ logo on the ground that use of the mark would infringe the Defendant’s copyright in the ‘Dude’ logo which had previously been assigned to it by the designer who had been engaged by the Claimant to create its logos.
The main problem for the Claimant in this case was, despite agreement being reached and a draft agreement being produced, the contract was not signed. Under English law, an assignment of intellectual property rights is not effective unless it is in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor. Therefore in the absence of a signed agreement, there was no legal assignment of the copyright in the Dude logo to the Claimant. Unsurprisingly perhaps this only became an issue when the owners of the Innocent drinks were being courted by Coca Cola with a view to purchase the business.
The Court did find there was an equitable assignment of the ownership of copyright in the Dude logo to the Claimant as the Dude logo was created specifically for the Claimant, approved by the Claimant and the Claimant collaborated in the production of design.
This case acts as a useful reminder to businesses that ownership requirements of intellectual property rights must be formalised to have legal effect. Simply paying for something, or even agreeing informally to transfer ownership, will not be enough. Businesses must ensure there is a signed agreement with any contractor who undertakes work for the business which incorporates suitable intellectual property assignment provisions.
For further information regarding drafting contractor agreements and IP assignments, please contact our Intellectual Property Team.