Wachovia Ambigram Logo

Wachovia ambigram logo

A little intellectual property law philosophy reared its symmetrical head when I pulled my debit card out of my pocket and looked at it held upside down.

“Holy balls, it’d be totally easy to modify the Wachovia logo to make it into an ambigram.” You know, an ambigram, like what they talk about in that less-than-thrilling book, The Da Vinci Code.

The advantages of having an ambigram logo are obvious: no matter how a debit card or brochure or letterhead or whatever are held the logo will still be readable. What big-name bank wouldn’t want this kind of thing? I could be paid handsomely for such an idea!

Then the questions came. How could I solicit this to Wachovia? I’d probably have to know someone on the inside for this to even reach the desk of someone remotely in charge. How could I protect the intellectual property of my idea? How would I keep Wachovia from ripping off my idea and making an ambigram of their own? After all, my work is a derivative of their intellectual property. Since it is derivative, is it automatically their property? If not and they do rip off the design, could I say that their new logo would be a derivative work of my work and then sue them? If I sued them, would I then gain ownership of Wachovia Bank? What if they come up with an ambigram that looks entirely different from mine, would a lawsuit against them hold any water? I mean, can I somehow protect the mere idea of turning their logo into an ambigram and not just my design? People are able to show scripts to movie executives in some way that protects them from having their idea getting ripped off, right? In that case, can I also protect the idea I had about making a pair of glasses that when you put them on you see people glow with varying shades of brightness depending on how attracted they are to you? To best protect my idea do I just have to come up with lots of designs for possible ambigrams and hope that that covers all bases? Why did I eat both those pork chops? Am I to die in my bed?

Instead of trying anything fancy, I decided to make a design, post it to my blog and see what my readers think of all of this.

Comments (10)

  1. Lance

    This is better than I imagined. Nice work!

    Reply
  2. nagfa

    hi,

    this is an interesting issue concerning the intellectual and artistic rights of two parties. your ‘thinking aloud’ does indeed strike a cord in most artists, us included, and we find your pragmatic solution a good one: designing and posting and ‘see what readers think..’

    only by spreading the knowledge that a certain design was indeed designed by you, will people tend to associate the design with the real artist (not unlike how john langdon’s design though not accompanied with his name get noticed and recognised due to publicity in dan brown’s angels and demons – *not da vinci code as you’ve mentioned.)

    in the meantime, all the best in posting more ambigrams. we’ll be looking forward to see more of your designs..

    salam,
    nagfa: naguib & fadilah,
    singapore
    (ambigram enthusiasts)

    Reply
  3. Max Nelson

    Brian,

    Nice work on the logo! I’m the creative director for Wachovia.com and don’t think we would ever do anything with the logo but you do raise some interesting questions. If you want the real answers I could check with our legal team to see if there are any previous cases like this one that might shine a light on the problem.

    Anyway thanks for sharing.

    Best,
    Max

    Reply
  4. brian (Post author)

    Max.

    Thanks for your comment. I understand that a company spends a fortune branding a consistent image, so it is no shock to me that Wachovia would not go with this even if the idea was developed in house. (Plus the ambigram is a little difficult to read.) The posts main thrust was law philosophy.

    I would love input from the Wachovia legal team! Intellectual property law is a fascinating, cutting-edge branch of law.

    Reply
  5. Dmitri Wood

    Brian,

    I love the logo. I also am a creative director of a marketing firm and deal with logos and intellectual property on a daily basis. I would like to shine some light on those philosophical questions you had about the logo you created. BTW I loved your rant it was quite entertaining. Keep it up!

    Question #1: How could I solicit this to Wachovia?

    Answer: As you have already noticed this is a small small world. It is a common misconception that the people in charge of branding and marketing decisions are worlds away. With a little bit of research anyone can easily get in contact with the big wigs.

    Question #2: How could I protect the intellectual property of my idea?

    Answer: Many people believe that by simply placing the copyright symbol and a date next to their creative work protects them from plagiarism. In order to fully protect your creative work you must submit it to the Library of Congress Copyright Office. You need to fill out a few forms and pay approximately $45. This will give you the right to sue if Wachovia or anyone else decides to plagiarize your work. If you do not register the work you can not sue anyone for using your work.

    Question #3: How would I keep Wachovia from ripping off my idea and making an ambigram of their own?

    Answer: If Wachovia decided that they liked the idea of having an ambigram logo of their own. There is nothing stopping them from doing so. As long as if the one they create does not look like yours if you have registered it. If you have not registered your logo with the copyright office. There is a chance that you might be able to get a patent on the idea on a conceptual level. However patents take a long time to take effect and cost a lot of money.

    Question #4: Since it is derivative, is it automatically their property?

    Answer: No way. You created it. It is your intellectual property.

    Question #5: If not and they do rip off the design, could I say that their new logo would be a derivative work of my work and then sue them?

    Answer: If their logo that was derived from your concept looks diffrent it is considered a new design and would be there intellectual property. If it is a concern I would consider looking into patents that cover concepts.

    Question #6: If I sued them, would I then gain ownership of Wachovia Bank?

    Answer: No, but you could get a lot of money if your mark was registered with the copyright office.

    Questions #7, 8, 9 What if they come up with an ambigram that looks entirely different from mine, would a lawsuit against them hold any water? I mean, can I somehow protect the mere idea of turning their logo into an ambigram and not just my design? can I also protect the idea I had about making a pair of glasses that when you put them on you see people glow with varying shades of brightness depending on how attracted they are to you?

    Answer: Protecting any idea would fall under the patent category.

    Reply
  6. Brian Risk (Post author)

    Dimitri,

    Really, you went above and beyond in responding to an over-the-top, foul-languaged blog post. I appreciate the time and thought you put into your response.

    I’m not entirely convinced that if one were to register a copyright on a modified logo that they would be protected at all. I know for certain this doesn’t work in the domain of musical recordings. The Verve used a sample of an orchestral version of a Rolling Stones song in Bittersweet Symphony and they ended up losing all royalties (and I believe controlling rights) for that song. I see this problem as almost analogous: there is a novel but derivative form of an existing creative work, and in the case of The Rolling Stones vs. The Verve, the original creators can take the fruits of the derivative work.

    The idea of what constitutes derivation is so nebulous and ill-defined that I just want to give up even thinking about it. Same with novelty. Let’s say my idea was to underline the Wachovia logo. No way would that be protectable as there is nothing novel about it. Ambigrams are fairly common and it could be argued that tweaking a design so that it is rotationally symmetric is also not novel.

    Reply
  7. Dmitri Wood

    I would first like to say sorry I am not trying to be difficult. This topic has stirred up a lot of thought with me and you made some great points.

    The Rolling Stones example you provided little different when it comes to copyright law. When composers copyright their music it is the sheet music that is copyrighted not the recording itself. This is why you can not find any musical recordings in public domain. That gives the owner of the copyright exclusive rights for all performances and recordings of that music.

    I agree that making a change as simple as just underlining the current logo or something as minute at that would never be considered under copyright law. It is strictly my opinion that I think your version of the Wachovia logo is fairly different and had lots of thought put into it. But then again the line between original artwork and plagiarism is fuzzy to say the least.

    Then again their logo was just text to begin with. The font itself is someone else’s copyrighted artwork. Actually it looks as if it is from the Lucidia family but changed a little bit to look a little more sharp. Companies like Microsoft pay millions of dollars out to the owners of font copyrights. So they can include the fonts in their software.

    If Wachovia can change the font a little to make it look a little more sharp and use it why can’t you change it again to give it a whole new feel?

    Example:
    Lets say I have a recipe for vanilla cake. If I added a single ingredient like strawberries to that recipe I would have a whole new taste and a whole new recipe. Yes at first glance they seem smiler but in fact they both taste completely different.

    You are simply adding your ingredient to the mix. You did things differently that is why what you did is original. A little change goes a long way.

    Again I apologize I am not trying to be difficult.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: 15 inspiring ambigram logos | Logo Design Love

  9. eMpty13

    Ambigrams are feaured in “Angels & Demons,” not in the “Da Vinci Code.” Minor point, but…

    Reply
  10. Pingback: 15 inspiring ambigram logos | Astagram Studios- A Creative Studio- Official Blog

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