Artistry Beyond Logos: Navigating Copyright Waters in Artistic Trademarks



The relationship between copyright and trademarks leads to an interesting debate in the extensive field of intellectual property rights. This article delves into the complex space where brands and visual components go beyond their traditional functions and are granted protection by both copyright and trademark.

The interplay between copyright and trademarks creates a dynamic intellectual property environment that is critical in preserving the identities and artistic expression of enterprises. We dive into the intriguing journey that trademarks go through in order to transcend their status as logos and become creative works that are eligible for copyright protection.

A trademark is a term, logo or graphic sign that companies use to distinguish themselves from other companies selling comparable or competing products or providing similar services. Trademarks are registered to protect company names, slogans, product names, etc. The purpose of trademarks is to avoid consumer confusion due to similar or identical products on the market. A trademark also ensures the authenticity of the brand and helps maintain its uniqueness in the market. In addition, according to the Trademark Law, trademark owners have the right to restrict others from using their trademarks without prior permission to market, sell, advertise, etc., their goods or services.

Copyright laws are an integral part of the overall development process of the country. Enrichment of national cultural heritage depends on the level of protection given to works of literature, drama, music and art, films and sound recordings. In addition, copyright gives its owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute, adapt, display and perform the creative work, usually for a limited period of time.

Trademark as Art; Criteria for Copyright Compliance

Businesses or individuals use a trademark to identify and distinguish their products and services from others, while creators of creative works receive copyright protection to prevent others from using their works. In addition to device mark protection under the Trademarks Act 1999, a creator can also seek protection for a logo under Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act 1957, which protects works of art. According to section 2 (c) of the Act, a work of art is (i) a painting, sculpture, drawing (including a diagram, map, chart or plan), engraving or photograph, whether such work is of artistic quality or not., (ii) a work of architecture; and (iii) any other artistic craft.

The name of the logo cannot be protected by copyright registration either. Only if a logo is artistic in nature and has some unique design, it can be protected by copyright. For example – Mercedes logo, Jaguar logo is copyrighted, and words are trademarks. However, the Range Rover logo is not eligible for copyright protection because it consists of ordinary letters with no uniqueness or creativity that would qualify under copyright law.

Protecting your logo under both laws is important. Since copyright only covers creative works and not a mere word.

Thus, the purpose of a trademark is to protect an expression, phrase, symbol or design – or a combination thereof – that classifies and distinguishes goods or services from one another. A unique logo can sometimes earn both copyright and trademark protection.

Visual Elements of Logos and Their Development Into Creative Works

An analysis of the visual components of a brand identifies situations where brands transcend their traditional functions. If logos and designs were simply symbolic, they develop into independent works of art. Case studies highlight well-known brands and creative packaging designs that have evolved into works of art in their own right. This calls for a closer examination of these visual trademark aspects’ eligibility for dual copyright protection.

Apple’s Logo: Apple’s iconic logo, featuring a stylized apple with a bite taken out, is an example where the artistic design has likely received copyright protection in addition to being a well-known trademark.

Nike’s Swoosh: Nike’s swoosh logo, a simple yet distinctive design, may be eligible for copyright protection based on its artistic expression.

Amul’s “The Taste of India” Campaign: Amul, a well-known dairy cooperative in India, is famous for its creative and witty outdoor advertising featuring the Amul girl. The artistic elements of these advertisements may potentially be considered for copyright protection in addition to being trademarks.

Mahindra’s “Rise for Good” Logo: The Mahindra Group’s “Rise for Good” logo, which features a tree with leaves forming a hand, is an example where the artistic design may be eligible for copyright protection beyond its role as a trademark.

Bajaj Auto’s “Bajaj” Logo: The Bajaj Auto logo, which includes a stylized “Bajaj” text, may have elements that could be considered for copyright protection in addition to trademark protection.

Kingfisher’s Bird Logo: Kingfisher, a popular Indian beer brand, has a distinctive bird logo. The artistic elements of this logo may potentially be eligible for copyright protection as creative expression.


Thus, it can be concluded that the copyright protection of artistic trademark expression emphasizes the importance of copyright in preserving the visual characteristics of the trademark. The complexity comes from the complex interplay of copyright and trademark law, especially when it comes to artwork used in connection with goods or services. Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act 1957 is an example of a provision that shows broad protection for artistic creation. Coordinating creative evaluation with recognized trademark and copyright tests provides a strong framework for addressing issues.


Authors: Abha Shah & Sourajit Barua


Interns and Paralegals.


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