Trademarking a logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a critical step in establishing the origin of your goods/services, providing legal protection for your brand, and defending against counterfeits. By registering your trademark, you create a robust defense for your unique brand identity. Without this protection, your brand could remain vulnerable and unprotected.
Can you trademark a logo?
The term “trademark” covers both trademarks and service marks, identifying goods and services respectively. When you successfully register your trademark, you gain legal protection that protects your brand and associates your products/services with your unique identity. This acts as a defense against potential fraud and counterfeiting.
However, understand that registration doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusive word/phrase ownership in all situations. Depending on context and usage, third-parties may be allowed to use the same word/phrase without infringing your rights. To navigate trademark law complexities, lean on the experienced attorneys at The Rapacke Law Group to help enforce your protections and safeguard your intellectual property.
Trademarking words/phrases can be complex, with strict requirements to meet. Challenges arise if your trademark merely describes a product/service characteristic, ingredient, or function. In such cases, your trademark may be deemed merely descriptive and not as strong as a unique, fanciful trademark. In extreme situations, it could be considered generic. Our experienced attorneys can help identify specific words, phrases, mottos, slogans, or designs you wish to protect. We’ll handle the legal intricacies to ensure your intellectual property is safeguarded, paving the way for effective marketing, legal protection, brand recognition, and increased sales.
Does my logo need a trademark?
If you’re a new business owner looking to safeguard your brand identity, including its name and logo, seeking federal or state trademark protection may be prudent. A common question is whether to trademark the business name/slogan, the logo, or both. This article clarifies the distinctions and offers insights for entrepreneurs considering protection.
Trademark protection plays a crucial branding role, and understanding differences between protecting the business name, slogan, and logo is key. By exploring these distinctions and your specific needs, you can make informed decisions to establish strong brand recognition and protection.
Is it better to copyright or trademark a logo?
Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are distinct forms of IP protection, differing in how they’re acquired, what they protect, and duration of protection. However, all three provide respective owners means to exclude others from profiting off their ideas/goodwill, while enabling owners to financially exploit their ideas and goodwill directly or through others. This exclusion right can be tremendously valuable depending on product/service demand.
Copyright registration gives the owner exclusive rights to authorize reproducing, making derivatives, distributing, selling copies, and displaying the work publicly. While authorship establishes copyright prima facie, registration secures legal standing and enables recovering infringement damages.
Copyrights protect creative expression fixed in a tangible form. They don’t protect titles, short phrases, real-world events, ideas, themes, or plot lines. Copyright protection provides exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, sell, publish, perform, and display works like art, literature, music, poetry, architecture, software, novels, movies, songs, websites, and more.
Copyright protection arises when creative work is fixed in a tangible medium. However, registering vital business works or works likely to be copied with the U.S. Copyright Office is important, since registration is required before an infringement suit can be filed. While advisable to mark registered and unregistered copyrighted works with the © symbol, it’s particularly important for registered works because of potential for larger damages in suits. Broadly, copyright duration is life of author plus 70 years.
In contrast, trademarks protect brand names, slogans, logos, packaging designs, and other brand elements distinguishing one company’s products/services from another’s. Trademarks are valuable intellectual property for startups seeking to establish, promote, and safeguard their emerging brand identity. For most small businesses, pursuing federal trademark registration provides a strategic advantage and is well worth the minimal cost. In contrast to copyrights, trademarks will last indefinitely as long as the USPTO fees are paid and the goods/services continue to be used under your brand.
How much does it cost to trademark my logo?
For non-lawyers attempting to trademark a brand, the legal paperwork and court filing requirements involved present a minefield of potential mistakes. From costly filing errors failing to comply with requirements to outright rejection of applications, all sorts of troublesome pitfalls can arise with DIY attempts. Additionally, consider the likelihood of accusations of infringement or disputes resulting in expensive legal actions after a flawed DIY application manages to slip through approval. This combination of hassles, risks, and litigation translates into a perfect storm primed for financial disaster for small business owners striving to protect their brand identity on a budget.
Your time as an entrepreneur is valuable, and you likely have a never-ending list of urgent priorities. DIY trademarking requires substantial time and mental energy, often ending up fruitless. Your capabilities as a founder are better spent developing your brand, analyzing the competition, serving clients, and growing your team.
Weigh DIY trademark filing costs against reasonable legal fees to craft and submit an airtight application meeting USPTO standards. Conducting a professional search, strategically selecting the filing basis, preparing specimens, and drafting an application to avoid rejections requires specialized legal knowledge and experience. In the end, it’s far cheaper, faster, and less stressful to rely on seasoned legal experts to handle this complex process rather than attempting a DIY approach.
Take time to properly understand the fundamental trademark rules, fill out an application in compliance with all requirements, and respond effectively to any Office Action concerns raised during examination. Contrast this difficult path with the ease of going with an established law firm that has successfully filed thousands of applications and offers a money-back guarantee.
The smart choice is clear – lean on a trademark attorney to navigate the process on your behalf, so you emerge knowing your business name, slogan, and logo have enforceable legal protections. Our attorneys have experience conducting searches, getting trademarks registered, performing exhaustive analyses to ensure your proposed mark doesn’t directly conflict with existing marks, and properly filing your application for smooth sailing through approval – all so you can stay focused on your company.
Once a thorough search is done, we excel at crafting customized applications that get results. We’ll handle all important details throughout the process to steer your application to success while keeping you free of common legal pitfalls and bureaucratic requirements that trip up novice applicants.
How to trademark a logo
A unique logo can be trademarked by registering it with the USPTO. Anyone can apply online if their business is based in the U.S. Businesses outside the U.S. will need to hire a USA-based attorney to file. Here are the common steps involved in trademarking a logo:
Step 1: Determine if you need a trademark registration. Consider whether registration is necessary, since the process requires time, effort, and money. Once a business uses a logo to advertise or sell goods and/or services, they gain limited common law protections if they can prove first use. But common law protection only applies where the business operates. If nationwide protection is needed, registration is advisable.
Step 2: Search for existing trademarks. Before applying, it’s important to search for existing trademarks resembling yours. An application may be rejected if the logo is likely to cause confusion with existing logos for similar goods/services. Logos can’t be generic and should be unique. Search the trademark database for existing logos. Hiring an experienced attorney, like the ones at The Rapacke Law Group, will be invaluable in providing you with insight into whether or not your logo is likely to be registered.
Step 3: Prepare the application. The application process can be complex and time-consuming. Because applications can be entirely rejected over errors and fees aren’t refundable, it’s vital to ensure each part is correct before submitting. Trademark attorneys can provide helpful guidance to save time/effort and avoid complications.
Attorneys will be skilled at drafting logo descriptions using precise legal terminology. Their assistance can prevent common mistakes to reduce the time needed for registration. Prepare the name/details of the applicant, goods/services the logo will represent, a digital image file of the logo, a specimen showing real use of the logo, if applicable, and the appropriate fees.
Consider whether to seek registration for a color logo or black-and-white version. Color registration means protection only when displayed in those colors. Trademarking black and white provides flexibility to later change colors without reapplying. Consult an experienced attorney on the strategic variation for the strongest protection.
Trademark logo examples
Fanciful trademarks are considered the strongest form of protection a brand can achieve, as they are completely unique creations that serve no purpose other than identifying a company’s specific goods or services. Because fanciful marks are invented specifically to represent a brand and product, it is very difficult for another party to legitimately claim they accidentally infringed on a fanciful trademark.
Some well-known examples of fanciful trademarks include:
- KODAK® – Created solely to represent photographic products and services.
- EXXON® – Invented exclusively as a brand name for oil and gasoline.
- PEPSI® – Devised purely as an identifier for soft drink products.
- CLOROX® – Uniquely fabricated to represent bleach and cleaning supply offerings.
Since fanciful marks have no meaning apart from identifying a particular brand, they are considered the most distinctive type of trademark, offering the highest level of built-in legal protection.
After fanciful marks, arbitrary trademarks represent the next strongest level of inherent protection available. Arbitrary trademarks consist of real words that have no logical connection to or relationship with the company’s products or services.
Because consumers would not typically associate these arbitrary words with the branded goods, arbitrary marks are deemed inherently distinctive. Some famous examples include:
- VIRGIN® – An arbitrary term used for cell phone services.
- SHELL® – A common word applied uniquely to gasoline.
- COACH® – An unrelated term serving as a luxury handbag brand.
- SUN® – A random word used by a computer company.
- LOTUS® – An arbitrary name representing a software company.
- CAMEL® – An odd choice used to brand tobacco products.
- APPLE® – A common fruit name oddly applied to computers.
Since these arbitrary word marks have no inherent link to the branded products, they too are considered highly distinctive trademarks with strong inherent legal protection.
Along with fanciful and arbitrary trademarks, suggestive marks are also regarded as inherently distinctive due to their subtle, indirect link to the associated goods and services. With suggestive marks, consumers must use some imagination to connect the term with the branded products.
Some well-known examples of suggestive trademarks include:
- KITCHENAID® – Suggests usefulness for kitchen-related aids.
- CITIBANK® – Suggests financial services in cities.
- NETFLIX® – Suggests movies delivered via the internet.
- MICROSOFT® – Suggests software with micro-computing.
- AIRBUS® – Suggests aircraft for air travel services.
Though not as strong as fanciful or arbitrary marks, suggestive trademarks still qualify for inherent distinctiveness and solid legal protection given their indirect link to the goods and services.
Descriptive trademarks directly describe an attribute, ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature or purpose of the associated products or services. Because they merely describe, rather than identify unique sources, descriptive trademarks are considered less distinct and more challenging to protect.
Some examples of well-known descriptive marks include:
- COCA-COLA® – Named for ingredients derived from coca leaves.
- AMERICAN AIRLINES® – Describes an American airline company.
- WESTERN DIGITAL® – Describes digital tech products from western U.S.
- POWER COMPUTING® – Describes powerful computing capabilities.
- INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES® – Describes international computers for business.
Despite including descriptive terms, these marks have acquired distinctiveness through long use in commerce and advertising. Descriptive terms can obtain trademark rights through acquired distinctiveness and appropriate legal steps.
Generic terms are the weakest and least protectable trademarks, as they merely identify a general category, type or class of products or services. They are considered generic because they serve as the common name for the item itself, rather than identifying a unique source of that item.
Examples of generic, non-protectable marks include:
- Office supplies
- Cell phones
If a specific company were granted exclusive rights to generic terms like these, other companies would be unfairly prevented from describing or referring to their own competing generic products. Thus, generic terms are wholly unregisterable as trademarks.
Over time, trademarks may evolve into generic terms if their popularity leads to widespread generic use. This phenomenon is called “genericide” and results in the loss of trademark protection. Examples include aspirin, escalator, trampoline, and linoleum.
How long does it take to trademark a logo?
In general, budget about a year for the USPTO to approve a trademark application. After submitting an application, it usually takes 4-6 months for an examiner to start reviewing it, as applications go into a queue with limited examiners and high volume. After examination, the approved application gets published for opposition, which is a required 30-day period, then registered and printed – this full process takes time.
When asked ‘how long does trademarking take?’ the estimated timeframe is around 12 months, though it can vary. Some applications need reexamination or changes to ensure uniqueness, impacting the timeline. On average, expect trademark approval six to nine months after filing. While it can take years, that’s rare.
Upon filing, you’ll receive a serial number to track your application. Once you submit your trademark application, you will be placed in a que and your logo will be reviewed in due course. While it seems like a long time to wait for a trademark, once your application is submitted, your application will be judged against other prior-filed applications and current registrations.
So, filing early will prevent the possibility of running against other applications that may prevent a problem due to a likelihood of confusion. Remember, just because you were using your trademark in commerce first, it is the first to file that will ultimately get the trademark registration. This can be challenged, but it will cost more and is more time consuming.
The fastest, simplest way to apply for a trademark is online. Registering a company name online takes about 90 minutes. Designed logos can be more complicated with more details. The amount of time varies greatly case by case based on the application details and review process.
How long does a trademark last?
Trademarks don’t expire automatically as long as proper fees are paid and the trademark remains in use. With the right fees and commercial use, protection can potentially last indefinitely, subject to certain conditions:
- Maintenance Renewals: Trademark owners must periodically renew registrations by filing renewals and paying fees. Check renewal deadlines with the relevant trademark office.
- Use in Commerce: To maintain protection, the trademark must continue being used in commerce for listed goods/services. Non-use can lead to abandonment and loss of protection. Be aware of and comply with use in commerce rules.
- Protecting Against Genericization: If a trademark becomes commonly used and generic for a product/service, protection may be lost. Owners must actively enforce rights to prevent this.
- Challenges and Invalidation: Trademarks can be challenged/invalidated by third parties believing the mark isn’t valid or infringes their rights. Successful actions can lead to loss of protection.
- Geographic/Non-Use Limitations: Registrations may be limited to certain geographic areas or classes. Failure to use the mark within those limits may forfeit protection for unused areas/classes.
- Expired Registrations: Unrenewed registrations may expire, causing loss of protection. The only recourse then is refiling an application.
It’s vital for trademark owners to stay informed about obligations/rights and proactively protect/maintain marks. Trademark professionals can provide guidance on maintenance and keeping trademarks valid and protective of the brand.
What are trademark classes?
The patent office offers a public database to help discover the trademark classes best fitting your company’s goods or services. For instance, searching “clothing” yields results including clothing items, pet clothing, and laundry services in various classes. Details are important – filing in the wrong class could have serious consequences, at minimum costing additional fees to refile properly.
Consult experienced trademark attorneys for further help narrowing down the classes encompassing your brand’s goods/services.
How do I use trademark symbols?
Trademark symbols beside your logo, brand name, tagline or other marketing elements show trademark protection. Symbols accomplish three key functions – providing public notice, deterring inferior imitations, and establishing brand recognition:
- Brand recognition: Symbols identify logos, names, taglines belonging to your brand.
- Consumer recognition: Symbols help the public recognize those visual cues when seeking your brand.
- Competitor recognition: Symbols tell competitors your visuals are protected and not to copy them.
Trademark symbols are superscript or subscript (top/bottom corner) next to trademarks. Most word/phrase trademarks place the symbol upper right after the mark. Most logos place it lower right.
Can you trademark your name?
When applying to trademark your name, the USPTO will consider several factors. One threshold is having the surname of someone connected to the application. The more common your name, the harder proving it universally represents your business. If very rare, the threshold for secondary meaning may be lower given the name’s uniqueness.
Some examples of successfully trademarked surnames are Dell, Ford, Chanel and McDonald’s. Do these names first make you think of the person or company?
Can you trademark a domain name?
To address “Can you trademark a domain name?”, it’s important to first understand trademarks and their protections. A trademark identifies your goods/services, distinguishing your brand. Brands like Nike® exemplify building recognition through trademarks, with consumers instantly identifying their clothing from logos/taglines.
A domain can’t be protected as a trademark just for being your Internet address. One famous example is Booking.com. To receive protection, you must use the mark in connection with offered goods/services (“use in commerce”). This prevents “trademark trolls” registering marks with no intent to use them but for profit or malicious reasons.
To establish use in commerce, the mark must be visibly connected to the brand’s goods/services. Additionally, the domain must be used in a way that distinguishes your goods/services from others. The key application consideration is whether there’s potential “likelihood of confusion” with an existing/pending mark.
Confusion exists between trademarks that are so similar and used with such related goods/services that consumers would believe they come from the same source. Examiners first consider the mark’s literal elements (spelling for a domain). They identify identical and similar matches in “appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression”.
Examiners also consider the “relatedness of the goods/services”. Applications must claim classes representing offered goods/services.
Identical names can coexist if goods/services are so unrelated as not to confuse. Dove® chocolate and Dove® bath products illustrate this – both share “Dove” but are in unrelated classes, so are separately owned trademarks that don’t confuse consumers.
Trademarks for Amazon Sellers
Amazon exposes sellers’ products/brands to potentially millions of daily customers. Trademarks protect names, logos, packaging, and product designs. For Amazon Marketplace sellers, trademarks can protect store names, logos, slogans, packaging, and product designs. Though less common, trademarks may also protect sounds, scents, or colors. A seller’s brand represents their business and promises quality to consumers. Establishing, growing, and maintaining a brand on Amazon is challenging. Your brand therefore requires a comprehensive trademark strategy for long-term success.
Federal trademark registration is inexpensive and allows protecting your brand against infringers nationwide. Federal registration serves as evidence you’re the exclusive owner entitled to use the brand for designated goods/services. Given the filing fees and 6-9 month prosecution timeline, filing a trademark application is prudent considering litigation costs or losing your brand.
Along with establishing ownership and preventing infringement, federal registration provides presumptive evidence of validity if you later enforce your mark. This means the registration presumes you as the rightful owner with exclusive national use rights for listed goods/services. Presumptive ownership is crucial for protecting products and reputation on a global platform like Amazon.
Amazon thus incentivizes sellers to federally register trademarks by providing greater platform protection to registrants. Amazon’s Brand Registry promotes/protects qualifying sellers. Eligibility requires:
- Active trademark registration. WIPO/EUIPO registrations also qualify in respective jurisdictions.
- Word mark or logo/design registration matching the application brand name.
- Registration trademark text matching the application brand name. Design marks require matching images.
- Registered/applied-for trademark appears on products/packaging.
- Product categories list for brand listing.
Sellers who meet the requirements can enroll at Brand Registry using credentials and complete an ownership compliance application. Applications must come from the trademark owner providing all necessary proof.
To comply as a seller, you need your registration/application number with application details matching your registration/application. Amazon diligently verifies information to ensure applicants are the rightful owners and applied-for marks match records. Amazon sends owners a verification code to complete enrollment, ensuring third parties aren’t falsely claiming ownership. Once verified, sellers gain Brand Registry benefits.
Our Trademark Guarantee
The RLG offers a money-back guarantee on all trademark applications. Our package includes a comprehensive search, preparing/filing your application, and paying your fees. Schedule a free IP strategy call or take our Intelligent IP quiz to see what protection best suits your invention.