An Innocent mistake


A recent case involving the social enterprise responsible for Innocent Smoothies highlights the risks of not getting intellectual property rights assigned.

Fresh Trading Limited (Innocent) commissioned a design company to design a logo for its smoothie products. That logo is the well-known one shown here. In return for the transfer of the intellectual property rights (IPR) in the logo, the designers would receive shares in Fresh Trading Limited.

The design company never received its shares and the agreement drafted between the two companies was never signed. Some years later, a dispute over the ownership of the rights in the logo ended up in High Court litigation after Innocent lost the rights to its trade marks.

The court ultimately found in favour of Fresh Trading Limited (Innocent) but this case highlights important factors for both designers/design agencies and those commissioning designs.

  1. The IPR in a design are owned by the designer unless contractually stated otherwise.
  2. The transfer of IPR should be clearly documented in a written and signed agreement.
  3. While assets other than cash can be used to pay for design services, the agreement should clearly state what those assets are and what happens to the rights in the designs if payment is not made.

The risks of overlooking these details are:

  1. Costly legal proceedings for both parties.
  2. Loss of the brand and its associated value for the commissioning business.
  3. Costs of re-branding for the commissioning business.
  4. Expense of buying the IP rights from the designer.