When Pandora unveiled its new app icon logo last October, the company said that the change was meant, in part, to differentiate the brand even further from a jewelry company of the same name. But several media outlets and users on Twitter immediately pointed another striking similarity–between Pandora’s new sans serif logo and PayPal’s own double “P” icon, unveiled in 2014.
Now, PayPal is bringing Pandora to court over the logo, which it calls “unlawfully similar” to its own. A suit filed by PayPal in Manhattan federal court on Friday seeks to prevent Pandora from using the new logo.
PayPal’s suit claims that the similarities between the logos are causing confusion along PayPal customers who can’t easily distinguish between the two apps. It even goes so far to suggest that Pandora’s business–which has been struggling, with falling stocks and employee layoffs in the past few months–is benefitting from the confusion. “Pandora deserted its longstanding logo and latched itself on to the increasingly popular PayPal Logo as part of its efforts to catch up to its competition,” PayPal writes in the suit.
Before the rebrand, Pandora’s logo was a serifed “P” in a darker blue, enclosed in a square border. The new icon features a chunkier, serif P in lighter blue, and omits the “counter” (what typographers call the hole in a letterform). Last fall, Pandora’s Julie Scelzo told Fast Company’s John Paul Titlow that the logo went through 1,000 iterations before it was finalized. But the big blue “P” does look similar to PayPal’s icon, as many on Twitter were quick to point out in October:
— sascha assbach (@assbach) October 16, 2016
The new Pandora logo looks too much like the Paypal logo and it sometimes makes me wonder why I have a Paypal bookmark on my toolbar.
— dextromethOrphan (@Sirorphan) October 24, 2016
In the lawsuit, PayPal spells out the design decisions behind its logo, designed by San Francisco-based design studio fuseproject in 2014.
The PayPal Logo was meticulously developed to exemplify simplicity, convenience, and security. Every detail of the design has a specific purpose. The counters in the Ps were closed to achieve a more compact form that is easier to read. The color was chosen to infuse energy into the logo and to portray confidence and vitality, while harmonizing with PayPal’s longstanding color scheme. The simple yet sharp geometric pattern was chosen to symbolize technology. The subtle shading between the tiles creates depth and dimension to show security. The italic angle conveys forward motion, innovation, and progress.
Friendly blue logos are a popular design choice amongst big tech companies–look at Twitter or Facebook. The fictional startup of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Pied Piper, sported a similar double “P” icon that inspired comparisons with PayPal’s own icon in its first season.
— Sean Percival (@Percival) May 19, 2014
But the legal battle between Pandora and PayPal isn’t merely a debate over intellectual property–the graphic likeness between their logos is a serious usability issue. The similarities dilute one of the most important factors in designing logos for social media sites: making the app icon pop out from the home page.
For both companies, the very thing that is meant to make their logos easy to spot on a phone dashboard–the bulbous P–is making it difficult to distinguish the companies’ apps from one another.
— Jeremiah Matthew (@jmm057) November 5, 2016