THE BLOG
11/27/2013 12:28 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

"LogoGate": The Identical Logo Fiasco

Two companies in industries that overlap, Mutual Mobile and SquareSpace, have identical logos. This is worse than Emma Stone's 2012 Oscar dress that Nicole Kidman wore five years earlier. The SquareSpace/Mutual Mobile "LogoGate" would be less soul-crushing to a designer like me if they were in industries that never intersected, like Lithium Batteries and Stilettos. You would never see those together or in sequence, ever -- unless there are LED Stilettos anywhere. But these two companies have services that intersect to create digital experiences.

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Trademarking a logo is often overlooked by small companies when launching their product, service, or brand, but it's as important to protect your mark as it is to protect your name. Both the name and logo can be registered by the USPTO, which can protect you from imitators, or brand confusion, that can hurt your business.

4 Ways to Avoid "LogoGate":

1. Use real designers.

Often companies don't have contracts that require designers to use original designs. A real design firm signs contracts with that clause, and adheres to protocols to ensure your designs are original, and not being imitated or used.

2. Hire a brand company or intellectual property lawyer.

If you aren't using a real designer, before you spend thousands on rolling out your mark, hire a branding company or intellectual property lawyer to do a knock out search to ensure your mark isn't currently being used.

3. Due diligence.

This is not in lieu of a lawyer, but if you want to do your own due diligence before you hire a designer, make a list of the top 50 companies and their corporate logos and study them. Study them well.

4. Conduct a focus group.

After your legit designer has created a couple of logo versions you like, show them to a group of people, not necessarily in the design field, but whose opinion you respect. If you can, create a survey on SurveyMonkey, and include questions about the logo to get the kind of insights and feedback you are looking for.

I am going to let Mutual Mobile and SquareSpace duke it out on their own, but if they are looking for a great identity, they know where to find me.