How similar can a logo be?

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How similar can a logo be?

If I’m planning on taking a current business
logo but change the main words, but with
similar layout and text, will I face legal
troubles? Also would I need to trademark my
new logo? It won’t be exactly the same at all,
the words are very different but it will be
obvious that the first logo was used as
inspiration. Thanks

Asked on October 4, 2016 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If it is "obvious" that the first logo as used as inspiration, you will most likely be infringing on (violating) their trademark rights and opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Only the owner of a trademark has the right to control who can make "derivative" works--logos or trademarkes based on it. A recognizable modified logo is almost by definition a violation of their rights. 
In answer to your question, it should *not* be recognizable--i.e. it should *not* be similar. Develop your own logo, to avoid potentially ruinously expensive legal problems later--which problems would extent to having to destroy all materials with the logo and refraining from its use, as well as paying monetary compensation. 
You *should* register a trademark for your logo, once you have an original design: while registering is not strictly necessary, it does enhance the protection for a valuable asset of yours.


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