Last Updated on May 25, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
How do I trademark a logo?
Perhaps you’ve started a business, have your website and entity registered at a state level. You’ve got a killer idea for a logo. You want to trademark your logo and use it as your company’s logo. You’ve even started the design. You want to make sure no one else is going to take your logo and use it for their own competitive business. So, how do you go about registering this logo as a trademark? What are the steps? As you start to investigate the process, perhaps you start to wonder why trademarking even exists in the first place. Why do we trademark logos? What is intellectual property and how is it different from real property or personal property? This article will break down those questions and get you on the path for registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It will also answer frequently asked questions, but foreign goods are outside the scope of this article.
The most important thing to understand about trademarks is: Trademarks allow the consumer to identify the source of a product. It allows consumers to differentiate the goods of one provider from the goods of another provider. Are you with me so far? Good. Let’s move on.
What is a trademarked Logo?
A trademarked logo is an intellectual right granted by the USPTO which gives the holder a right to exclude other businesses (another party) from using a confusingly similar insignia. A registered trademark has significant protection for a logo which has gone through the trademark application process including trademark registration. This ultimately requires the trademark with the USPTO has been filed, approved and issued.
If you are thinking about trademarking your logo, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you will need to use it in commerce in order to trademark it. This means that your logo must be used on products or services that are sold or traded in interstate or foreign commerce. Second, your logo must be distinctive in order to be eligible for trademark protection. This means that it must be different from other logos out there and must be able to identify your company without any confusion.
The process to trademark a logo is complex, so it is important to consult with an experienced trademark attorney before moving forward. They can help you determine whether your logo is eligible for protection and guide you through the application process. Once you trademark your logo and your logo is registered, you will have the peace of mind knowing that it is legally protected and that you can take action against anyone who tries to use it without your permission.
What is a Trademark?
At a fundamental level, a trademark is an insignia that identifies a source for services. Trademarks are intangible, meaning you can’t touch them or possess them physically.
Trademarks are a type of intellectual property right that gives the owner/holder a federal right (legal protection) to exclude others from using the same trademark in the course of business. This is to ensure your logo design is not used by another company.
There are many benefits to a small business owner for having a trademarked name or logo. For one, it gives you a competitive edge over other businesses who do not have a trademark. It also shows customers that you are a professional and serious company that they can trust. Finally, it can help you to avoid legal problems down the road.
You’ve probably seen a lot of logos in your life. They’re everywhere, on products, on buildings, on clothes. A logo is a graphical representation of a company’s brand, and it’s one of the most important elements of that company’s identity. So if you’ve got a great idea for a logo, you’re going to want to make sure that no one else can use it for their own purposes. That’s where trademarking comes in.
A trademark is a form of intellectual property protection that gives the owner of the trademark the exclusive right to use that mark in connection with the goods or services it represents. In other words, if you have a trademark on your logo, no one else can use that logo or anything similar to it without your permission. This should prevent products and services from needing to issue a cease and desist for an existing trademarked logo even though your name and logo are not a tangible medium.
There are lots of different kinds of trademarks, but for our purposes, we’re just going to focus on logos. To trademark a logo, you have to file what’s called a “trademark application” with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). The application process can be a bit daunting, but luckily there are plenty of resources out there to help you through it.
Aside from a logo, what are different types of Trademarks?
There are a variety of different Trademarks that can be applied for and in general they are for identifying your business and protecting business marks. Trademarks can protect the name of a business, the logo you are using, the slogan you are using, the color you use, a sound or a shape. This article will break down these different types of trademarks below, but before we do that, it’s worth exploring intellectual property in a bit more depth. Once we understand the purpose behind trademarks and intellectual property, we can start to understand the process of trademarking a logo.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is distinguishable from real property and personal property. When you think real property, picture a house sitting on land. Personal property are things like jewelry, vehicles, and furniture. This is also referred to tangible or physical property. There are rules around the use and the “exclusivity” of their use. When something is physical or tangible, it’s fairly easy to exclude someone else from using it. If I have a car, I can say, “no” you may not use my car. I can physically exclude you. So, unless you commit a crime, you are not able to use my car.
That personal property is physically excludable is what an economist might refer to as “rivalrous” meaning, I can have my car, or you can have my car but we both cannot have the car.
In many ways, physical property is easier to control than something like a logo, or a concept or a work for expression.
If I have a piece of land, I can put up a fence and exclude you. There are means for enforcing this exclusionary right. But, when I have a trademark, a mark that is an insignia that is identifying the source, the only way I can enforce this right, and prevent another from using it is through federal intellectual property protection.
Let’s think of this in one more example. You and I are sitting at a table. You have nothing in front of you, but I have a hot cup of tea. You or I can have that cup of tea. One of us can possess it at a time, but not both of us. But, if at the table I say a poem, both of us can experience the poem at the same time without diminishing the other’s enjoyment. That is a marvelous thing about information and information sharing, it wants to be free. It can be enjoyed by an unlimited number of people at the same time.
But at the same time, information can be costly to produce. And, once you have a copy of it, whether in your mind or in a digital copy, I can no longer exclude you from that information.
Therefore, for the people who invest their time into non-tangible information items (books, songs) the cost to develop are high. And to ensure that a person can recoup that cost, especially considering how highly transmissible that information is once in the marketplace (to protect that information from free riders), it gives creators a legal right or legal barriers, which give limited rights to the holder. Otherwise, just like in the age of napster/limewire and music sharing agents, free riders share protected works that musical artist have spent a lot of time and money to create.
Let’s return to some more examples of trademarks.
Trademark Business name examples
There are common examples of these, and the examples are wide ranging. A business name (brand name) is fairly obvious, and any business name from Nike, to Apple and UPS can be protected. You’ll need to do market research to determine a name and pick one that reflects your business in terms of the goods or services that you offer. Trademarking a business name is different than designating an entity (at a state level) and also different than your doing business as (DBA). Your brand name may be the same or different than your business website address. In modern times, many people start with their website name, and use that name to inform their entity and trademark.
Trademark Logo examples
The logo is the identifying insignia for a business. It usually consists of unique design elements, whether through images, text, markings, color, shapes, or a combination of these that act as a symbol to identify a particular business or brand. Think of the Nike Swoosh, Chevy Bow-tie, Ford Badge, or the Apple, well, apple.
Trademark Slogan Examples
A slogan is generally a short sentence or a couple of words put together to help you remember and identify a business or brand. There’s a lot of slogan examples, but UPS’s “What can brown do for you?” is a fairly recent iteration. Disneyland is, “The happiest place on earth”. Nike says, “Just do it”. De Beers says, “A diamond is forever”.
Trademark Color Examples
A trademarked color is an identifying color that has been registered to protect other business from using confusingly similar colors in competing businesses. It is a unique identifier specific to that business. Businesses trademarked color examples include things like: Tiffany Blue, John Deer Green, DeWalt yellow and black, and Post-it Canary Yellow.
Trademark Sound Examples
A trademarked sound is an identifying sound that has been registered to prevent to their business from using confusingly similar sounds in competing businesses. It is another type of unique identifier specific to that business. Business trademarked sounds include things like: the Netflix introduction, the MGM Lion, The NBC chimes, Intel Inside Bong Sound,
Trademark Shape Examples
A trademarked shape is an identifying shape used by a business that uniquely identifies that businesses’ product. By trademarking the shape, a business can prevent others from using a confusingly similar shape to market their product. Trademarked shape examples include the Coca-Cola Bottle, the Hershey’s kiss, and the Weber BBQ.
Summary of different types of trademarks
Almost anything at all that is capable of carrying meaning as a symbol or device can function as a trademark. The idea is that a trademark is almost anything and it provides the ability to distinguish the goods of one provider from those of another. Trademarks allow consumers to distinguish the goods of one provider from another. They are the indicator of the source of a product.
How long does the trademark application process take?
The process of obtaining a logo trademark is a lot shorter than many registration processes in the federal government. But it still takes time. You need to perform market research first. The process usually takes a total of 12 months to complete, and requires various “stages”. The length of time will also depend on whether or not you are currently using your trademark in commerce, or if you just have a “bona fide” intent to use the mark in the near future.
The process of trademarking a logo can take anywhere from several months to a few years. If you hire an attorney to help you with the process, it will likely take less time than if you file for your trademark on your own. The length of time it takes to receive a registration certificate for your logo will also depend on the number of classes that you are registering your logo under.
The first step is to make sure that your logo is actually eligible for trademark protection. In order for a logo to be eligible, it must be used in commerce (in other words, it can’t just be an idea), and it must be distinctive. That is, it must be capable of identifying the source of the goods or services it represents.
There are two types of distinctiveness: “inherent” and “acquired.” Inherently distinctive logos are those that are so unique that they immediately identify the source of the goods or services they represent. Acquired distinctiveness, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. It occurs when a logo that might not have been initially distinctive (think a simple word mark) becomes associated in the minds of consumers with a particular brand over time. So if you’re using a logo that’s not inherently distinctive, you’ll need to prove acquired distinctiveness by submitting evidence showing that consumers associate the logo with your brand.
The next step to register your trademark logo is to actually file your application. This is referred to as the initial application which can take approximately six months to review. The USPTO has an online trademark database called the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), which you can use to file your application. The process is pretty straightforward, but there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you’ll need to choose the appropriate “Mark Type” for your logo. If your logo is just text, you would select “Word Mark.” If it’s a design, you would select “Design Mark.” There are also options for sound marks and color schemes. You’ll also have wanted to start a trademark watch.
Next, you’ll need to provide a description of your logo. This doesn’t have to be overly detailed, but you will need to include any words or designs that are included in the logo, as well as any colors that are used.
After that, you’ll need to indicate how you’re using the logo. Are you using it on products? On packaging? On advertisements? In connection with services? You’ll need to select all of the ways that you’re using the logo from a list of options.
Finally, you’ll need to provide some basic information about your business, such as your name and contact information. Once you’ve completed the application, you’ll just need to pay the filing fee and submit it.
The USPTO will then review your application to make sure it meets all of the necessary requirements and make sure there are no similar logos. If everything looks good, they’ll issue a “Notice of Publication,” which means that your logo is now officially published in the Trademark Gazette. At this point, anyone who has an objection to your trademark can file a notice of opposition with the USPTO.
If there are no objections and your trademark is approved, you’ll eventually receive a “Certificate of Registration.” Congratulations! You’ve successfully registered your logo as a trademark.
You might also receive a letter providing grounds for refusing your application or letting you know that you haven’t completed all the requirements. If this letter is received, you must respond within 6 months of the letter’s issue date. The office will then generally provide an updated response 2 months later.
Of course, registering your logo is just the first step. You also need to make sure that you’re using it properly and enforcing your rights if someone else tries to use it without your permission. But that’s a topic for another day.
Now that you know how to trademark a logo, you’re well on your way to protecting your brand. For further reading on timelines please visit: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/trademark-timelines/section-1a-timeline-application-based-use-commerce
Do Trademarks expire?
If you trademark a logo, the trademark does not expire so long as you continue to use them.
How hard is a Trademarks to obtain?
It’s not especially hard to trademark a logo, so long as you meet certain threshold requirements. First, your mark has to be capable of distinguishing your goods and services from those of another. You also have to be using the mark in commerce. If you meet these conditions, that your mark is distinctive and the mark is being used in commerce, then generally you’ll be able to register and protect the mark. There is a difference between registering and protecting the mark.
The mark cannot be confusingly similar (consumer wouldn’t confuse your mark with another) already in use.
There are some other technical requirements under the statute, but these are the big ticket items.
Registered v. Non registered Trademarks
Trademarks are different from patents for example, as there is a common law of trademarks. The common law trademark option is the least costly but affords minimal protection. The way that you acquire rights in a mark is so long as the mark is distinctive and used in commerce you start to acquire rights. So, you need to be using your logo in the market. You don’t necessarily need to have registered with the USPTO to enforce your trademark rights. But there are significant benefits to registering at a federal level that confer specific benefits. Anyone using a mark in their business should seek a registration. The process is not nearly as onerous or expensive as the aforementioned patent application.
Federal registration confers nationwide priority giving the registrant priority of the mark all over the United States and even allows the mark holder to “occupy the field” and puts future users of confusingly similar marks on notice of your mark. There are other benefits as well, but these are the primary benefits or registering.
Who owns my logo’s trademark?
The person or entity who has been issued the registration certificate for the trademark is the owner of the trademark. You must be using your logo after trademark registration to ensure your trademark protects your logo trademark. Your company’s logo is protected from trademark infringement pursuant to the USPTO having issued a grant of logo trademark.
How is a trademark different from a copyright?
A copyright provides protection for an original work of authorship, such as a book or a song. A copyright protects an original work from unauthorized reproduction. A trademark protects words, phrases, logos, and other symbols that identify the source of goods and services. Trademark and copyright law are forms of intellectual property.
Why do we trademark logos?
Trademarks such as logo design are used to identify and distinguish products or services in the marketplace. They can also indicate the source of goods or services. Trademarks can be words, phrases, logos, or other symbols.
How much does it cost to trademark my logo?
There are certain filing fees associated with trademarking a logo. The cost will depend on the number of classes that you are registering your logo under and whether you use an attorney or file for your trademark yourself. Typically, it costs around $275-$325 to file a trademark application with the USPTO.
Are there different levels of trademark protection?
Not really and there is no “per class” type system at play. The fact that you are using the mark is what prevents confusingly similar marks from being used. The filing of trademark in the federal register increases your rights, it puts others on “constructive notice” of your trademark priority. It provides a presumption in court that your mark is valid and that you have priority. It provides certain damage assumptions in a court case.
What is Trademark infringement and how can infringement be avoided?
The standard for infringement is the likelihood of confusion. If someone else’s mark is likely to be confused with yours, then they are likely infringing, unless they have some other defense they can raise. When it comes to infringement, it’s often best to talk to an attorney, especially of another business has accused you of infringing on their trademark. How similar are the marks? Are you operating in the same or similar industries? To what extent is the trademark owner likely to move into the other industry? So, even if the infringing mark is in a different industry, if you the mark holder might move into that industry, it may be infringement.
Can a trademark be abandoned?
The use of a trademark is at the crux of this question. Just because they are ceasing to use a trademark in one context (like a url) it doesn’t necessarily allow another to use the mark. The question is going to boil down to whether the trademark was registered, and if so, whether the mark is still in use in the marketplace. If you have more questions on this particular topic, please talk to an attorney.
The process of trademarking a logo is relatively simple and straightforward. The benefits of trademarking a logo are many, including the ability to nationwide priority, the ability to “occupy the field”, and putting future users of confusingly similar marks on notice. The cost of trademarking a logo is relatively low. To avoid infringement, it is advisable to consult with an attorney, especially if another business has accused you of infringing on their trademark. Finally, a trademark can be abandoned if it is no longer in use.
I hope this article was helpful in understanding the process of trademarking a logo and the benefits of doing so and the legal protection provided to a company through the USPTO filing. If you have any further questions, please consult with an attorney or law firm.
Thank you for reading.