I've made a website that notifies users when an item on another site (lets call it source site) is on special (the source site does have this feature, but it doesn't work well).

For the logo for my site I was planning on using the source site's logo with a red 'sale' printed over it (as if someone had stamped the word sale over the source site's logo). My naïve understanding of copyright law is that if I make substantial changes to the logo of the source site then I'm ok to use it, however another thought has occurred:

Any user of my site will recognise the source logo under the 'sale' stamp - so although I feel like I've substantially changed the image the original image is undoubtedly still recognisable. Does this mean I risk infringing copyright?

I considered this question regarding trademark, and I'm confident that my website makes it clear that it isn't associated with the source site (and therefore shouldn't confuse the trademark of the source). I'm based in the UK, the source site is based in the US.

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    "My naïve understanding of copyright law is that if I make substantial changes to the logo of the source site then I'm ok to use it," This is wholly incorrect. A derivative work is a derivative work no matter how many changes you make. Make enough for it to be unrecognisable and nobody will be able to tell of course but you may as well have made something original. Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 15:05

1 Answer 1



Logos are usually under Trademark - either by just being used, or even by being registered. Such logos are to indicate the source of goods. Changing the logo - even with an overlay "sale" - does muddle the origin of goods. It could be seen as defacing the trademark.

Also, most companies offer their logos for advertisement under a free license, that strictly dictates how you can use it - and usually, that also prohibits altering it or incorporating it into other icons (=logos). By using the logo, you enter a contract of adherence. So you agreed not to do that.

For example Google:

Don’t modify the logo

Don’t modify or distort the logo, change any colors, or add additional elements.

Or Intel:

Do not incorporate Intel trademarks or logos into your own product names, service names, trademarks, logos, or company names, and do not adopt marks or logos that are confusingly similar to Intel's marks and logos

Do not make unlicensed use of Intel's licensed logos, such as the Intel Inside® logo. Third-party use of Intel logos requires a license or written permission from Intel. If you are interested in obtaining a license to use an Intel mark or logo, contact your Intel marketing or sales representative, or your local Intel sales office

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