Protection of a graphic charter

As competition between companies is fierce, the tool for standing out from the rest tends to be the appearance of a product, a website, or an application. The objective is to create an identity that will appeal to the consumer. This identity is detailed in a document that represents the company’s identity guide: the graphic charter. Given its importance, it is essential to consider securing it.

1) How to protect my graphic charter?

A graphic charter is a document that gathers all the rules defining the visual identity of a company, organisation, or brand. It contains, for example, the logo, typography, colours, icons, etc. It helps to maintain visual consistency in communications.

As a written document, the graphic charter is a literary work. In addition, some elements such as logos, icons, and other graphic elements are also considered as graphic works.

These elements are intellectual works and are protected by copyright law, a branch of intellectual property. This right protects creations of all kinds (literary, musical, graphic, scientific, etc., except for ideas and concepts), regardless of their form, genre, merit, or purpose.

This protection is automatic: it arises from the mere fact of creation by the author. Copyright does not require registration with an intellectual property institution.

This right protects a work provided that it is original, i.e., that it bears the imprint of the author’s personality: his/her sensibility, his/her non-imposed choices, and his/her perception of the subject. For graphic charters, it has been stated that, to be considered original, the charter must be precise, with a non-routine objective, and must not be the consequence of a trend (CA Versailles, 1st ch. 1st sect., of 26 January 2017, n° 15/01073).

The work must also be fixed, i.e., materialized.

This right confers an economic right on the work, opposable to all, which makes it possible to control its communication to the public and to prohibit or authorise the use of the work, in return for remuneration. It allows infringement proceedings to be brought. This exclusive right lasts until 70 years after the death of the author.

It also grants a moral right that allows one to oppose disclosure without consent, to oppose use that would distort the work or request the mention of the author’s name. This moral right is perpetual.

However, as copyright arises automatically, it can be difficult to prove the date of creation or who the author is. It is therefore advisable to build up proof to be able to attest the date and ownership of the creation, using proof of anteriority, such as the certificate.

2) Additional protections: trademark and design law.

  • Trademark law:

Some elements of the graphic design, such as logos, illustrations, motifs, layout, a specific colour or even icons, can be protected for their distinctive function under trademark law (in addition to copyright). A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods and services of a company from those of competitors.

Trademark law grants a monopoly on the use on the trademark for the goods and services designated by the applicant. To be protected as a trademark, the name or logo must be registered with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). The trademark must meet the conditions of distinctiveness, availability, and lawfulness. Protection is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

To find out more: trademark law.

  • Design law:

The aesthetic aspect of a product or a graphic interface can be protected by a design right. This right protects the appearance and ornamentation of an object, i.e., the lines, contours, colours, shapes, and textures.

This right arises through registration with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). To benefit from this protection, strict conditions must be met: the creation must be new, have a distinctive, visible, and lawful character, and must not be dictated by technology.

After registration, the holder has a 5-year monopoly of use from the date of filing, which can be extended to 25 years.

However, many of the designs benefiting from design rights are already protected by copyright law. This is the theory of the unity of art: an object with a particular aesthetic, regardless of its use, benefits from copyright provided that it is original. See our article on the complementarity of these rights.

3) How to secure my copyright with the service?

The certificate of anteriority enables you to prove that your creations existed at a certain date and that you are the author. This type of service is important, as seen previously, for creations that depend on copyright.

This anchoring is also interesting to secure the proof of efforts and investments linked to the construction of a visual identity as evidenced in the graphic charter, which can also be advantageous in case of unfair competition.

It is, in fact, essential to obtain proof of anteriority to be able to prove that you are indeed the author of your creation at a certain date. This makes it easier to claim your copyright, particularly in the event of future copying or challenge by a competitor. For such creation, it is then possible to file the graphic charter document itself, and to isolate elements such as logos, icons, layouts, or other related graphic elements in separate files.

The certificate of anteriority provides indisputable proof of anteriority, through the intervention of a Bailiff (depending on the offer selected), but also through the qualified electronic timestamp, which has evidential value, including internationally.

To apply for a anteriority certificate, the process can be completed online. Please visit the following address: