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Returning The Favor: The Toyota Mashup Challenge!

After a long week I found out that the advertising agency representing Toyota seems to have taken some creative license with the 9rules logo. Toyota Georgetown is having a conference where for some reason they thought it appropriate to modify the 9rules logo a little bit and use it as their logo for the conference. Here’s a little graphic design sequence showing just how closely their “logo” matches up with ours:

Flipped, color shifted, and some leaves jiggled around, but it’s pretty obvious. In fact if you line up their version with the 9rules logo 2nd from the right in that image, the big leaves on the left and right line up perfectly, along with the bottom stem. Here’s another image with their version layered on top of a flipped 9rules logo. I’ve pointed out the best parts :)

Now while the 9rules logo is not trademarked to 9rules, Inc., it’s still copyrighted to me. Back in April 2005 I documented my creative process over at Paul’s blog and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of references of it all around the Web so prior art is not the issue. The issue is that it’s just totally lame of them to do it to anybody.

I have been in contact with their ad agency’s legal department (meaning, they wrote me a really long email after I wrote them a really short one) and they still maintain that the two logos look nothing alike.

Since Toyota has taken a Web 2.0 Mashup Hammer to the 9rules logo, I thought it only fair that I mash their own logo up in a similar way. Everybody, I present to you, the shiny new (and totally original!) Business Logs logo!

Maaan, so much friendlier! While it may appear that I merely flipped the logo, re-colored it, and removed a small area, you can rest assured it’s completely and totally different from the Toyota logo in every way, shape, and form. Toyota logo? What’s that?

To celebrate megacompany Toyota’s willingness to use the 9rules logo for whatever they want, I now invite all of you to join the Toyota Logo Mashup Challenge! Grab a gigantic version of the Toyota logo from over here, change it up in some small (but totally creative and original!) ways, and then post a link to your version in the comments. Each commenter on this thread who posts a link to their version of the Toyota logo will be automatically entered into the Toyota Logo Mashup Challenge! On October 19th a winner will be randomly selected and they’ll get a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate courtesy your neighborhood Toyota Dealer…. err…. courtesy my wallet!

Aaaaaand get your engines runnin’!!!

About Mike Rundle


  1. Brian says:
  2. Rowan Lewis says:


    Perhaps this should be a competition? :P

  3. Obsesik says:

    Here is my attempt… i like some of the ideas on here… maybe toyota will change their logo soon…hehe..

    Grandota… or… Toyotizer!

  4. Paul says:

    I actually live in Lexington and Meridian is a large sized agency for Lexington. They get a lot of the “big” local work. They also farm out a ton of work to freelancers (I have never done anything for them). I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this logo wasn’t done by a young freelancer (or intern). I couldn’t actually see the “standard” people there even knowing what the heck 9 rules was, unless they saw the logo in a design mag or book of logos. I’m actually going to do some asking through the grapevine to see if anyone I know is freelancing for them.

    I think this is a big enough deal that you might want to think about contacting Lexington’s local paper (Herald-Leader) and bring the story to their attention. If you get nowhere with legal and don’t want to pay for court costs then use the court of popular opinion and hit them in their local market’s newspaper. Here is a link to the Herald’s site

    The thing is we all take ideas from all around us. It’s called research. We take a bunch of ideas and filter them through our own process and come up with something new. Then there are people that do all their “research” in one place and skip the whole annoying filtering process. That’s plagiarism.

    At the very least they owe you an apology and a retraction. And giving you the money they charged for the logo wouldn’t be a bad step either.

  5. Amos says:

    In my opinion Samalah’s logo is the best so far.

  6. pyrolyte says:

    there need to be about 1000 more of these. get cracking

  7. Matt Craven says:

    You are wrong about not having a trademark on your own logo.

    When you create your logo, by US trademark law you automatically have a trademark by default. The fact that it isn’t registered at the USPTO works against you slightly because the mechanics of proving your ownership involve more, but you DO have a trademark on your logo, if you created it or paid someone to create it for you.

    This is untrue. You must register a trademark.

    Copyright is a different issue – but the real issue here is trademark infringment – *if* 9rules registered their logo as a trademark.

    Mike, did you?

    On a side note, I highly recommend that you stop discussing this directly with Toyota and hire an attorney – I would also recommend that you not discuss this further in public until you have discussed this with legal counsel.


  8. jako bako says:

    all i have to ask, is wheres the goatse logo?

  9. John says:
  10. ali says:

    Here’s my entry.

    Enjoy everyone.

  11. phillips says:
  12. peeter says:

    check out ‘FROYODA

  13. Merik says:

    [I posted something similar on 9rules, but just wanted to pass it along]

    ANAL, but I’ve had some exposure to copyright issues. If you want to get more serious, I’m sure you could find a good lawyer to make things happen. But on your own you probably won’t scare them. What I say below probably isn’t fully correct, but it might give you some ideas where to go from here.

    If you register a CR for your design, it doesn’t cost much, and shows that you’re more serious about the issue (because it allows you to hit them up for $ damages).

    Prior art (which you mention) doesn’t mean anything in CR – a work simply must must be ORIGINAL. Identical designs do not infringe each other IF they were independently created. The fact that some of their design elements (stem length, etc) are IDENTICAL makes it difficult for them to say that they independently came up with their design.

    CR rights go beyond exact copies. 17 USC 103(a) allows you to exclude “derivative works.” It takes more than simple changes (which is what it seems like here) – there must be “non-trivial contributions” for their work to be considered original over yours. Unfortunately, “non-trivial” is a squishy term. A good copyright lawyer would have a better idea how it would apply here.

    Finally, infringing Toyota’s CR could complicate you stopping them, as it gives them somethiing to shoot back against you. Just something to think about…

    Hope you can stick it to them – they seem to deserve it.

  14. pizpot says:

    That was gutsy I would think. Way to go… entertaining.

  15. KasturiR says:
  16. Ian says:

    Dave Anderson should take this away. The best so far by leaps and bounds. “It Sounds Familiar”

  17. gulfsprite says:

    I decided to add meridian’s logo to the mix.

  18. Chris says:

    In the words of Justice O’Connor,”The sine qua non of copyright is originality.” There is nothing original about flipping a logo and changing the colors. What they are doing is illegal. If you registered the logo with the Library of Congress copyright office ($30 process), you are entitled to recoup any legal fees and tripple damages if you sue them.

  19. CRySyS says:

    Hey, Digg reader here. I’m not much of an artist but I had to throw my idea in so here you go!

    In the spirit of Toyota marketing, the tomato was stole– “sourced” from:

    I still think they make great trucks.

  20. Kyle Jones says:
  21. Oh yeah says:

    Nice job!

    Go Go Go !

  22. Darin says:

    I don’t mean to be the bad guy here, but is it possible they aren’t ripping your logo off? I found this when looking through the agencies list of work.

    Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (1986)

    Now this logo doesn’t look very 1986, but is it possible? Is it possible it was a coincidence?

  23. Brian Litzinger says:

    I used to work at Meridian Communications right around the time it tanked from 60 people to 12. Its sad to see this happen.

  24. joe says:

    This is definitely copyright infringement, and terribly unethical. Unfortunately for you, there’s probably not much to be done. As a previous poster stated, there’s a good likelihood that a young freelancer did this right under their noses. And sadly, though 9rules has a lot of traffic you can’t really expect anyone outside of the blogging community to know who you are. You really should get a lawyer involved, just having people flame them and their logo isn’t going to do much good and will probably only reinforce to them that they’re dealing with a kid in their twenties who can’t really do anything to stop them. Best of luck.

  25. Mike Rundle says:

    Hey Darin, the legal team representing Meridian Communications said to me that their logo has been in use “for a few months”. I assume that the Toyota plant has been a client of theirs since 1986, but the logo was only designed a few months back. The 9rules logo debuted in April 2005 so we easily predate their version by over a year.

  26. Chubbs says:

    Wow, that’s totally not cool.

    Here’s mine with a little Web 2.0 spice!

  27. John B says:

    I can’t believe no one has revisited the “controversy” from when Toyota first unleashed the siesta logo on the world…

  28. Kyle says:

    9rules revamped. Check it out!

  29. Joe Dolan says:

    Hey Mike,

    What a shock to see this. If you are not able to do anything about it, I guess the best way to look at it is that it is highly flatering that they have selected your logo to steal! Maybe Toyota should be placed in your portfolio now! ;-)


  30. JPhilipso says:

    I just felt like emailing them my 2-bits. I know they don’t even care about small people. One day, businesses and media outlets will fear the blogosphere. It’s getting closer day.

    Toyota told me that I should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center

    Like that will do anything. Maybe if 50,000 people on digg complained it’d do something but whatever.

  31. Brian says:

    I couldn’t resist. This story blows my mind. Maybe we, as concerned artists/citizens, should send a word to the government to do something about the ridiculous amount of copyright/trademark infringement coming out of the Internet.

    Anyway, here’s my sub:

  32. dean says:

    Wow, I wouldn’t think a huge company like Toyota would actually risk their brand and do something like this. I’m sure some one is going to be in the hot seat.

  33. Bitcloud says:

    Nice idea Mike!

    I’ve done a brief write up of it down at RichGentlemenHide, as well as submitted my entries…

    Look forward to seeing how it all works out!

  34. Brian says:

    That’s weird that it didn’t post the link.


  35. Francois says:

    Serious stuff.

    Mike, this would get me boiling. Less the fact that they actually used the logo than that they deny doing it. For the uninitiated the two logos are practically identical. If you saw one the one day, and the other the next, I don’t even think you’d realise they were different. (Except if you make a study of logos.)

    My grandmother once told me: If that boy copies you, you should see it as a compliment, obviously your work is good enough to be copied. She never said anything about him stealing it though.

    @Simon Angling(49) – funny thing: I won a competition 4 years ago for “Laugh it Off” with a concept around the Toyato brand and Toi-Toi. The tag line went something along the lines of “Everything keeps going white.” Any case, I won’t sue you.

    Here’s my submission:

  36. Anton says:

    Here’s my entry.

    I think it’d work as a fleet badge in a 1950s era sci-fi movie.

  37. Crystal says:

    I just love how you took something negative and turned it into something positve and fun :) Bravo!

  38. Kyle says:

    WHO WON???

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