About 10 days ago, a friend of mine forwarded to me this brief article which talks about an unauthorized use of a trademark owned by the Columbus Blue Jackets professional hockey team. According to the article, a campaign volunteer for Libertarian Marc Delphine of Oregon (who is running for a seat in the United States Senate) “designed” a logo for use by the campaign to promote Mr. Delphine’s candidacy. A copy of the logo (on the far left) in shown below:
Now, if you happen to be a fan of the National Hockey League, this logo may look somewhat familiar to you. Why? Because it is an almost identical replica of the team insignia used by the Columbus Blue Jackets, as illustrated below:
So, in the easiest game of photo hunt ever created, this designer merely reversed the Blue Jackets’ logo and removed the red dot from the star-spangled banner, which is apparently synonymous with the Ohio state flag (shown below). Still, I have to give this guy credit for recognizing that flipping the star-spangled banner from left to right would create a “D” (for “Delphine”). Hey, at least I can appreciate a creative infringement when I see one!
Anyway, once an embarrassed Mr. Delphine got word of the infringement, he had it immediately removed from his official website and issued a statement claiming that the logo was donated by a volunteer associated with his website developer and denying any knowledge that it was a misappropriation of the Blue Jackets’ team insignia (which I personally believe considering that the Blue Jackets are likely not well-known in Oregon, a state which lacks an NHL franchise and is located 2500 miles away from the Blue Jackets’ home in Ohio). Honestly, had someone put the Blue Jackets’ logo in front of me and asked me who owns it, I could not have correctly answered the question, especially since I am not one of the 12 hockey fans left in the U.S.
So, what can individuals and small business learn from this unfortunate gaffe by Mr. Delphine’s campaign staff? Well, if you hire a graphic artist or marketing firm to develop a logo that will be used as a trademark to advertise and sell your products and services, you better do your best to confirm that the finished product is an original and unique creation and not something that was copied and pasted off the Internet. Try to get recommendations from other business owners as to who designed their logos. Send the finalized logo to friends and family and ask whether it reminds them of any other logo they’ve seen on television, in printed media, or in the local WalMart. Ask some questions of the artist regarding how he/she came up with logo concept and whether it was based on any past projects. And then, of course, hire a trademark attorney to conduct a trademark clearance search of the logo. Although not foolproof, taking these steps can help to avoid receiving a nasty-gram from some disgruntled trademark owner who probably will not find your infringement quite as amusing as I found Mr. Delphine’s.