Google's reverse image search: Indies Restaurant

In the summer of 2011 I became aware of the fact that the website had "appropriated" many graphic images from logos I had designed over the years. The images were being offered for sale on the site - without my authorization. One of the impacted identities was that created in 1993 for Indies, a New York City restaurant and bar (below).

My original palm tree image, within the Indies identity, was designed in a very specific manner. The client had an existing die for the production of a square paper folder with an arched cut on the front panel. This die would be used to produce a folder to contain the restaurant and bar menus (below). The palm tree had to be a specific size and shape to fit within the panel created by the arched die-cut. For the menu folder and business cards the tree would be blind-embossed. It would be printed on all other applications.

The Indies logo has experienced a great deal of exposure over the years. It has been used in many blog entries about logo design and displayed in numerous online galleries and portfolios. The identity also appears in the books Restaurant Graphics 2 (Rockport Publishers, USA 1996), Design Library: Retail & Restaurant (Rockport Publishers, USA 1998), New Logo & Trademark Design (P.I.E. Books, Japan 1998), Graphic Idea Resource: Paper - Building Great Designs With Paper (Rockport Publishers, USA, 1998), The Big Book of Logos (Hearst Books International, USA, 1999), New Business Card Graphics 2 (Japan), Logo Design for Small Business 2 (Signcraft, USA 2004), and all international editions of 1000 Restaurant Bar & Cafe Graphics (Rockport Publishers, USA 2007). It's not surprising that industry professionals, and some so-called "designers," are quite familiar with the design.

In the LogoGarden situation, a DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement was filed with the site's webhost and the palm tree was soon removed from the archive on images offered for sale. With the removal of the Indies graphic, and almost 20 others, I began to wonder about possible other use and abuse of my logo designs.

Having recently read and heard a great deal about the Google reverse image search tool, I decided to put it into action. I uploaded the Indies logo design and 23 legitimate findings of the logo appeared in the results (above). The listings displayed the identity on my blog, in international online logo galleries and elsewhere. A similar search using the reverse image tool TinEye found only three results; my blog, my Logopond gallery, and a blogger's post about tree and plant imagery in logo designs.

With my curiosity piqued, I wondered what would happen if I uploaded a color JPEG file of only the palm tree graphic from the Indies logo, eliminating all text from the design. Up popped 26 web page findings, including the surprises of the palm being used "as is," or with some adaptation, for a church camp in Alabama, a restaurant and bar in Hawaii, a coconut company in Mexico and a beach bar in Italy (below). A similar TinEye search yielded only two images - a Logopond gallery image and a blog post.

In playing around with the Google Image Search feature, I've found that uploading different file types sometimes brings about a variety in the results. A black and white JPEG file of the palm brought about 26 found images, including the logo designs from Hawaii, Mexico and Italy. Making use of a color TIFF file resulted in the finding of 25 images; the Mexico and Hawaii images among those shown. Searching with a black and white TIFF image created a display of 27 images, including one not previously shown in any results - the palm tree being sold as a large wall decal by a firm in Brasil (below).

As a result of my findings of the Indies logo, one image was removed after an email to the site was unsuccessful and a DMCA claim was filed with the organization's webhost. Facebook removed one image, being used as a profile image, due to copyright infringement. Removal request emails have been sent to the others. I suspect at least one of the cases will need to be handled by my attorney.

The Google reverse image search feature does seem to a have a few idiosyncrasies when searching in different manners and with a variety of file types. Still, it is a very valuable tool for any creative professional in policing the use of one's original images.

© 2011 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives