Copyrighting logos not a race to the bottom

Speedway Motors, Inc., a purveyor of speed and performance vehicle parts, has trademark registrations on three new logos. In an attempt to further protect their logos, Speedway also pursued copyright registrations but were denied. According to the Copyright Office, Speedway’s new logos fell “into a narrow area where admittedly independent efforts are deemed too trivial or insignificant to support a copyright” and therefore failed to meet the admittedly low threshold for copyright protection. Speedway brought action in Speedway Motors, Inc. v. Perlmutter (D. Neb. 2021) arguing that the Office’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The court was not persuaded and affirmed the Office’s decision noting that “this is not a race to the bottom. Even if the Copyright Office had previously approved … a work that arguably displayed less creativity than Speedway’s logos, that does not mean that Speedway has satisfied its legal burden.”

This is not to say that no copyright protection exists for any logo.  American Airlines successfully registered their eagle-with-red-and-blue-wings logo in 2018 when the Copyright office found the logo contained “minimal, but sufficient amount of original and creative authorship.  Unfortunately there is no bright line between what creativity is sufficient and what is trivial or insignificant.

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