The Fine Line Between Inspiration & Duplication

April 5, 2013 / Branding, News /

The value of a company logo is priceless. It’s your identity, your face in the market and a key element that not only propels you to succeed, but separates you from your competition.  You work hard to build your brand identity; it takes hours of research, months of planning and years of dedication to create the right combination which in turn provides you with the correct identity in the market place.


But what if that identity and all the effort that was put into the development of your businesses brand was stolen? Well maybe not stolen but borrowed at least.


Initially, anyone’s reaction to this would of course be anger.  I guess this would be considered a fairly reasonable response to the situation as well.  You have put you blood; sweat and tears into its creation, not to mention the financial costs that are associated with starting up a company and branding it.


But why does it happen so often and so blatantly?


A lot of the time it’s purely a simple case of mistaken identity with no angst intended. Coincidental, where one designer or organisation have been motivated or inspired in the same light as another already established design in the market today. Maybe it was at a subconscious level, with the image being identified and stored in the back of the mind, just waiting to be used again. We have to remember that the average consumer, on a daily basis is bombarded with over 1000 + designs and advertising visuals. From a designer’s perspective, try doubling that figure and you get something close to the ballpark of what a designer is visually stimulated by on a daily basis.




If that’s not enough there are roughly 750,000 businesses in Australia alone, 29,000,000 in America and an estimated 100,000,000 worldwide (and by the time I finish writing this piece those numbers would have increased). How can you not tread on the toes of another competitor?


On the flip side to coincidence we have plagiarism. This is the concept of trying to ‘piggy back’ on a successful brand and capitalise upon their growth and brand recognition. A well established brand’s logo, like Sony, is bound to linger in people’s minds. Described as memorable logos, customers remember, recall and identify these strong brands through their logos. Very often, smaller brands will try to grow by staying under the shadow of an eminent brand and thus, copy their logos. Sony were confronted by this exact challenge, but many argued they may have been over reacting. Sony attempted to stop a logo revamp by Clearwire who claimed to have trademark rights over the ‘twirl’… Yes, twirl in their logo design.



Sony took them to court, confident they would be able to stop the use of the twirl (and other potentially comparable elements), but the outcome wasn’t as friendly as Sony thought. The resulting legal actions made them look somewhat foolish, giving Clearwire a platform for free publicity. It could potentially be argued that the publicity may not have been in the light they would have wished but as the saying goes,  ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’.


By copying another design, smaller brands become the subject of discussion in a variety of media sources. I guess it’s human nature to be inquisitive and it’s this inquisitive nature that works in the favour of those ‘piggy backing’ brands. ‘How similar really is the logo?’ ‘What do Clearwire actually do?’ ‘Is it the same as Sony?’


Personally, I feel there’s enough flexibility and diversity within the design to put it in the clear. With the growing number of businesses worldwide it almost impossible for an organisation to develop a branding campaign and brand image without having some similarities to another design in the market, greater reliance should be placed on the organisations to ensure they are producing original and exciting designs, evolving and innovating to ensure this problem doesn’t happen.


*UNO Australia is a Melbourne based creative design agency located on the outer skirts of Richmond, specialising in graphic, product and exhibition / retail interior design solutions. If you are looking to develop your brand or product, feel free to contact us for further information. We look forward to hearing from you.