The importance of logos in branding has been discussed in detail. Although words are generally thought of as the most dominant portion of a trademark because they are spoken by consumers, the logos themselves convey equally powerful and important messages. Which is why this element in the overall branding strategy should be cleared by trademark counsel prior to investing significant sums of money in promoting the trademark.
Recently, Under Consideration’s Brand New Blog featured the rebrand of Suramericana, an insurance company. Suramericana’s old logo was a recognizable picture of a bird and its new logo is a very modern depiction of a bird. One commentator said about the new logo “[a]m I the only one seeing the Sprint logo in the ‘wing’?” Sprint Communication Company L.P. is the owner of a federal registration for a design that the United States Patent and Trademark Office classifies as “wings, birds’.” The Suramericana new logo does look an awful lot like an upside down version of the Sprint logo.
While Suramericana probably does not have to worry about receiving a nasty letter from Sprint over its logo because insurance and telecommunication services are unrelated, this situation presents and important point. A trademark clearance search should be done on all elements of the trademark even those elements that do not immediately stand out as something that deserves a search. Assuming the services were related, Suramericana could have found itself in a position where it would have to repeat its rebranding effort. The upfront investment in trademark searches is generally worth the money given the peace of mind a search can provide.