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How do courts determine if logos are too close?

You started a business a decade ago, and you created a logo with the help of a local graphic designer. A month ago, you noticed another business that is using a logo that's very close to yours.

Do you have a case? How does the court decide if a logo is so close that it infringes on your trademark? After all, it's not as if they stole your logo directly. There are differences.

Many factors will be considered, such as whether or not consumers have reported confusion and if it's used in the company's marketing. However, two of the biggest considerations are simply how similar they are and whether or not you sell similar products.

This can venture into some gray areas. The degree of similarity is a bit subjective. You may feel that they are far too close when the court decides they're not all that similar.

As far as products are concerned, this simply speaks to whether or not the other company is trying to steal your logo in order to steal your business. For instance, if you own a bike shop and the other company is also a bike shop or repair center, you may have a case. If the other company is a craft brewery, though, you may not have as strong of a case. They're clearly not trying to target people who are attempting to find you.

These cases can get complex, and there are many judgment calls that have to be made. If you're involved in a case like this, it's critical that you understand the legal process to give yourself the best chance of success.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, "About Trademark Infringement," accessed July 06, 2017

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