The perils of trademarking logos

As the new Formula 1 logo looks to have run into copyright issues with 3M, Michael Johnson runs through the issues that arise when trying to trademark a logo

There’s been quite a hoo-ha online about this week’s revelation that the new Formula 1 logo, unveiled last November at the Abu Dhabi grand prix, looks remarkably similar to that used by a 3M brand of, er, compression tights. It doesn’t help, of course, that the new F1 logo replaced one that had existed for years, and whilst it was showing its age a little, last year’s change had already caused quite a stir. The knives were out, sharpened, and ready.

Lo and behold, thousands of online experts are throwing the book at Formula 1 and its logo’s creators, advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, accusing them of everything from unoriginal thinking, not doing their homework properly or being unable to do a simple Google search’.

Reading through this commentary, it’s clear that many people simply don’t understand the deeper legal questions and complexities around trademarking. What follows is an attempt to highlight some of the recurring issues.

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