With some exceptions, a newspaper can publish your company’s logo or trademark. After all, the reason you have a logo is so the public will see it and think about your company. About the only things a newspaper cannot do with your logo is misuse it to incorrectly imply your company is endorsing something or steal parts of your logo to create a logo for someone else that will lead to public confusion.
Copyright vs. Trademark
Usually corporate logos are governed by trademark law. They are rarely under copyright unless the design is so significant that it would qualify as a work of art aside from its business use, and even then some duplication in news columns would be allowed under the “fair use” section of the copyright code. Trademark law instead exists to avoid market confusion – mostly preventing another company from using a logo that could be confused with yours.
Mostly newspapers will use your logo to illustrate a story about your company. This is fair use, whether the logo is copyrighted or trademarked and whether the story is positive or negative. There may also be times when your logo is newsworthy, all on its own, such as when your company and another organization are involved in litigation over the logo. Generally, these are the only ways the newspaper’s newsroom or opinion section would seek to use your logo. As well, a newspaper could parody your logo for an opinion article or editorial cartoon; that’s legal, as long as it’s not libelous and reasonable people would not confuse your company or product for someone else’s.
Most newspapers use The Associated Press Stylebook or a variation of it as an in-house style guide, and editors seek to respect trademark names by using generics instead of your company’s trademark name if they are not sure whether it’s, say, really a Kleenex rather than some other facial tissue. Misuse is usually not deliberate. Such mistakes creep in because newspaper employees are human and most people in everyday language will say AstroTurf rather than artificial turf. A gentle reminder to capitalize your trademark would not hurt. However, newspapers are not required to obey weird preferences – for example, AP style dictates the use of "Yahoo" in news stories despite the company’s use of "Yahoo!"
Often if the newspaper or a local non-profit group is hosting a public event, the promotional advertisement will carry the logos of the entities that are contributing money or goods or services as sponsors of the event. If your company’s logo has been used in error, it’s probably a simple mistake that can be solved by making a call to the newspaper’s advertising or marketing departments telling it to stop. Of course if the cause that the event benefits is one you object to, you could ask the newspaper to publish a correction or retraction.
The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, a trade organization, says on its website that if an advertiser misuses your company’s logo or trademark in its advertisement, “The newspaper is not liable for damages unless it ran the advertisement knowing that it would cause confusion or would deceive purchasers.” You can sue for an injunction to prevent further publication, but usually the newspaper will stop if you simply ask.
Robert Craig became a professional writer at age 16, and now edits for all sections of a large newspaper. His resume includes "The Miami Herald" and "New York Daily News." Craig attended Vassar College for one year and became a full-time sports writer at age 19.