I've read in the law that logos are protected by the United States Trademark law, not laws of copyright. Essentially this means that you have immediate permission to use a logo that doesn't belong to you, without asking for direct permission from the logos owner (as long as you follow legal usage guidelines). So my question is: Do I need to cite these logos I use if they do not have protection by copyright (thereby giving me usage privileges)? And also do assume I would follow correct guidelines and include a standard legal disclaimer.

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    Why are you including the logos in the first place? What do you mean by "citing" a logo? Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:14
  • IBM®, for instance, says that you must call/contact them for permission to use a logo. At minimum, you may need to include trademark or registered trademark symbols (certainly in text, rather than after a logo) and an attribution statement.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 17:57
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    Does this answer your question? Should I cite logos and clip-art in my thesis?
    – Sursula
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


If you are using simply using the logos in place of the company name, there is no reason to cite them since you would not cite a company name. If you are intending on publishing the work, the publisher may want to see a signed release from the copyright and/or trademark holder.


Logos can be protected by both copyright and trademark. This is entirely orthogonal to the issue of citation. By academic convention, you are required to cite any work which contributed intellectually to your work. If I base my work on a paper from the 1800s, I am still required to cite it, even though it is likely to be long out of copyright. This is not a legal requirement, but a question of academic ethics.

Whether you are required to cite these logos will depend on whether they make an intellectual contribution to your work, and the common practices of the field in which you are working. It does not depend on whether the logos are under copyright or trademark.

  • I like your answer, however I would appreciate some clarification on what you would define as intellectual contribution. A paper from any year makes sense as a source of intellectual contribution, however I'll be straight with you: These are logos of big companies, they do not further any opinion regarding the topic. So please clarify if you believe something with no intellectual contribution, that you have legal access to without citation should be viewed as a required academic citation. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 14:20
  • @JaredMassa For what purpose are you including the logos in your work?
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 14:29
  • MJeffryes: the only use for logos: display/visual engagement. They simply are used in a list format rather than listing company titles. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 14:33
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    @JaredMassa If the work is not "about" logos, (eg, an analysis of how logos have changed over the 20th century) then I cannot see how they could be making an intellectual contribution to the work. I would also suggest your proposed use of them is of questionable value: I think a journal publisher would likely tell you to use the names rather than the logos.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 14:56
  • Good answer, also on the topic see: What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?
    – Cape Code
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:53

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