Home: Maucher Jenkins

Intellectual Property


Patents | Trade Marks | Designs

News & Commentary

volkswagen logo on stand

Some of the world’s most recognisable logos are practising social distancing

Date: 3 April 2020


In recent days and weeks, people across the world would be forgiven for thinking they had woken up in some kind of parallel universe. Efforts to mitigate the spread and strain on health systems of COVID-19 have resulted in unprecedented changes to many parts of our normal daily life. “Social distancing” is a phrase which we are becoming accustomed to seeing and hearing everywhere.


To help spread this message, some of the world’s most successful corporations, which own some of the most recognisable trade marks, have released new versions of their iconic logos. McDonald’s, Audi, Volkswagen and Coca Cola, among others, have released new logos visually echoing the distance we now need to keep between us. McDonald’s iconic golden arches have been separated, Audi has unlinked its circles, Volkswagen’s V and W have been placed further apart and the familiar italic script of COCA COLA was stretched out with large spaces between the letters on a display in New York’s Times Square.


Please click here for examples of the social distancing logos


The impact and power of these brands should not be underestimated, this creative use of iconic trade marks will reach millions worldwide, as it has done already, making for a short, punchy and impactful message. It is also a rather emotive example of solidarity.


It is rare to see brands change their iconic marks in this way - use of a trade mark, certainly iconic trade marks, are usually controlled by strict guidelines and licensing agreements; using the correct pantone/font/size is no laughing matter. Given the value that sits within a trade mark, this is unsurprising.


It will be interesting to see if any of these brands file new trade mark applications, and whether third parties start to jump on the “brand wagon” and modify the marks further, taking us into the realms of trade mark infringement, or indeed if third parties start to do it with other iconic brands before the brand owners get to it themselves. If social distancing measures go on for a significant period, will use of these new logos continue, and perhaps be in earnest, rather than as part of a limited social advertising campaign? Perhaps then we will start to see a shift in behaviour, after all it is perfectly conceivable that the amended marks could become iconic trade marks in their own right, signifying a poignant and unprecedented time in our lives. Of course only time will tell.


Given the significant impact of the coronavirus, these temporary logos are an important acknowledgement of the sacrifices we are all making, including large corporations. The release of these logos will help to underline the importance of these measures to the general public, in a very direct and relatable way. They are certainly a visual representation of a time that will make history.


Get in touch with our teams for more information on Trade Marks and IP Litigation & Dispute Resolution