Should I Trademark My Logo Or Copyright It?

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Written by: Nice Branding Agency

Categories: Branding Tips

Getting a logo trademark seems difficult, but Nice Branding Agency has lots of experience on the subject. Let us preface this post by stating that nothing within the text below constitutes as legal advice. It’s just our take on trademarking, based on what we’ve found to be true throughout the course of our work. As a branding agency, we utilize creative methods to develop names and brand marks for companies and organizations of all sizes. For some of our larger clients, creating a name and logo that can be trademarked is key. When it’s imperative that a name or logo that we create be registered, we work with our logo trademark attorney partners to handle the initial research into the usability of a brand name or logo. However, we advise our clients to work directly with an attorney (ours or theirs) to get the job done.

Logo Trademark vs. Copyright

You may have wondered what the appropriate term is as you’re debating the merits of whether you need to protect your logo. Both terms refer to the protection of intellectual property. Copyrighting pertains to literary works or artistic works. Trademarking is for items that help portray a company’s brand. This includes the name and logo for the organization. The United States Patent and Trademark Office indicates that a trademark protects "words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods." This means that a company can register a trademark for its business name, slogans, logos and other items that essentially brand the product or company. So, most likely, you should be tossing around the term trademarking at this point. Hold up one sec, though. There are some logos that contain an artistic element that would require protection under both the trademark and copyright provisions. We find these matters to get muddy sometimes, so it’s best to consult your legal team (or ours!) if you’re wondering which way you need to go here.

Should I Trademark My Logo?

By common law, a logo is trademarked as soon as it’s used in commerce. But, according to LegalZoom, this may only protect you in your immediate locale. State registration will provide additional protection, and it’s relatively simple and inexpensive. Federal logo trademark registration is a bit more of a process. In fact, if you’ve formed a business entity in your state, you’ve already registered with the state. However, if you ever wanted to dispute another organization for using your likeness, your trademark would have to be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Another piece of this puzzle refers to the naming of your business. A common question that arises is whether you can use a business name that might already be in use by another organization. The answer here is yes. And no. See, if the other organization is within your immediate area, serving the same clientele, and working within the same industry, then using a name that’s exactly the same or similar is a big no-no. Now, say you’re in the widget business in the U.S., and another company is in the doodad business in Switzerland. In this instance, having a name that’s similar isn’t the worst thing in the world. The hard part here will be securing a domain that aligns with your name and brand direction that is available for use. Again, this here is not legal advice. Just some thoughts we’ve come across while building brands.

Benefits of a Logo Trademark

The value of an organization is not solely determined by the amount of money the business brings in. There is an additional value associated with a business, based on the reputation and goodwill the company has built over the years through brand awareness. By protecting your intellectual property, you’re guarding against anyone utilizing the goodwill you’ve garnered by piggybacking off the brand you’ve created. Additionally, you’re protecting your business from becoming associated with another venture that may be unsavory. If someone uses your brand look and feel, brand mark, or any other element of your brand to promote an action that dismantles the brand, there could be consequences. Any disconnect in the minds of the consumer slowly (or quickly) starts to cause your brand to disassemble. For obvious reasons, this starts to erode what you’ve been working so hard to create — cohesion.

Cost of Trademarking

According to LegalZoom, “You can submit a trademark registration application online, using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) or through an online service. The USPTO also accepts paper applications but strongly prefers electronic applications. Trademark fees for electronic applications are currently $225–$400 per class of goods or services, depending on the type of application you file. The trademark cost for registering with a paper application is currently $600 per class of goods or services. If you use your mark in connection with more than one class of goods and services—such as both t-shirts and software—you must pay the filing fee for each class of goods and services. The fee is not returned to you if your trademark registration application is ultimately denied.” In addition, there are attorney fees in conjunction with the process. Plus, every 10 years, you’ve got to renew your registration. So, there are fees for that. Overall, the decision whether or not to trademark your brand elements is one that is unique to your business. When you start a branding project with Nice Branding Agency, this is something that we can discuss at the outset of the project. If you do decide to trademark your logo, we’re happy to put you in touch with our legal team to sort out the specifics.