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Vodafone Refused Copyright Protection

Written by Leanne Davies on 31 August 2018

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Vodafone have been refused copyright protection for their speech mark logo by the US Copyright Office. This was following a second request from the telecommunications company to reconsider the decision.

The particular logo was created in 1998, however it wasn’t until December 2016 that Vodafone applied to register for copyright protection for this logo.

It is a 2D red and white image with grey shading, this features an apostrophe within a circle in the center of a square.

Although it was initially created sometime ago the logo now features heavily in Vodafone’s advertising and branding following ab new marketing strategy which was revealed last year.

In December 2016, Vodafone applied to register copyright protection for the logo.

The Copyright Office then refused the request in July 2017 after finding that the work was absent from the “authorship necessary to support a copyright claim”..

Copyright law only protects “those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity”, and the office found that Vodafone’s work did not meet this threshold.

Vodafone then asked the office to reconsider its rejection in October last year, but in March 2018, the review board “re-evaluated the claims and again concluded that the work did not contain a sufficient amount of original and creative graphic or artistic authorship to support a copyright registration”.

The office explained that the circle, square, and apostrophe that make up the design are “common and familiar shapes”.

Vodafone again asked that the Copyright Office reconsider the refusal a second time, in June 2018, arguing that the work contained the “requisite amount” of creativity, and the central symbol is not an apostrophe but a “ballooned droplet” with distinguishable curvature and orientation.

Vodafone explained that, even if the symbol is understood as an apostrophe, such elements are protectable by copyright where the work also contains expressive elements.

Last week, on August 21, the Copyright Office Review Board upheld the finding that the logo is not eligible for copyright protection.

“An opening single quote is a familiar symbol and is not registrable,” the review board explained.

It noted that squares and circles are both common geometric shapes, so they cannot be protected by copyright.

The Copyright Office added that the mark’s use of two main colours to distinguish three shapes is a “trivial use of colour”, and “minor shading and highlighting does not meaningfully add to the creative authorship of the work”.

“This decision constitutes final agency action in this matter,” the Copyright Office decided.

In a similar situation, the review board refused to grant Europe’s football governing body UEFA copyright protection for its well known Starball logo this week.

The review board explained the logo, which is made up of a 2D ball shape full of black stars, is not sufficiently original to sustain a claim for copyright
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