Were these clients expecting original logo designs?

Quite often these days I am receiving emails, tweets, Facebook messages and direct messages, from design professionals around the world, expressing concern that they have come across a logo design that was much more than inspired by one of my own original identity creations. I really appreciate the vigilance of the design community.

In February 2012, one copyright infringement situation was brought to my attention by way of a personal email from a designer in Denmark, a tweet with the offending page link and a direct message from another designer on Twitter. Much of the concern shared by other professionals has been the result of the design industry's recent experience with LogoGarden and the large number of copyright violations of my own work found via Google reverse image searches.

Recently I received an email from a design peer in Texas, expressing his concern that he'd come across a rip-off of one of my designs in the online portfolio of an Austin designer (above). In viewing the example, I immediately knew that he was referring to the Neighborhood Service Center logo I designed for the City of Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement - an image that evolved from an earlier local government agency identity I created in 1999. In responding to my online design pal, I explained that I would suspect that the Austin image had somehow been inspired by my design, but it didn't appear to be a literal rip-off.

Still, my curiosity was piqued - and I did a Google reverse image search using the logo image from Austin. Initially, I found a Shutterstock graphic (above) that was being sold by the company until at least 10.12.10. I suppose it was "inspired" by my design, as there are some very obvious similarities. I then came across numerous sites around the world offering the image for sale or as a free clipart download. The search then resulted in finding many logo designs making use of the image, or variations of the graphic.

Here are some of the examples I discovered:

• Logos for a real estate investment concern; a Chinese company marketing first aid kits; a television show in Argentina, student housing accommodations in Syria, home medical services in Illinois, and a Michigan county program (with watermark lines from a clipart site still in place when enlarged).

• Symbols representing a glass and window business in Bangladesh, a real estate firm in Andora, a nonprofit organization in Scotland, a Chinese real estate representative, a website in China and an insurance company in British Columbia.

• Images including those for a "design contest" in China (with the contributor being called out on the site for not submitting an original design), a business selling Turkish products in Russia, a window manufacturer in the Ukraine, a Pakistani student organization, a health care program in Michigan and an architecture firm in the Czech Republic.

• Identities for a Canadian community grants program, a Chinese job placement firm, a real estate broker concern in Brazil, a Russian news-related website and an in-home health care business.

I also found the image being used as an illustrative element on many websites, the cover graphic for a National Household Education Survey Report book in China and in many other applications.

With the image found in use all over the world, I wonder how many of the owners of these businesses, and organization administrators, think they are represented by a truly original design - and how many designers represented their work as such.

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives