Vodafone failed to register its well-known trademark logo as a copyrighted work in the US Copyright Office.
The company was ascertaining that its logo is subject to copyright protection because it represents either a quotation mark or a balloon droplet in combination with geometrical shapes and colours.
The Office, however, disagreed, stating that widespread symbols and geometrical shapes cannot be registered as a copyrighted work due to a lack of originality.
According to the Section 313.4(J) of the Compendium:
Familiar symbols and designs are not copyrightable and cannot be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, either in two-dimensional or three-dimensional form. 37 C.F.R. § 202.1(a). Likewise, the Office cannot register a work consisting of a simple combination of a few familiar symbols or designs with minor linear or spatial variations, either in two-dimensional or three-dimensional form. Examples of familiar symbols and designs include, without limitation:
• Symbols typically found on a keyboard, such as asterisks, ampersands, and
While familiar symbols and designs cannot be registered by themselves, a work of authorship that incorporates one or more of these elements into a larger design may be registered if the work as a whole contains a sufficient amount of creative expression.
However, the mere fact that the symbol is combined with colours is not enough to create the necessary distinctiveness.
Source: Nedim Malovic, IPKat.