Securing a trademark for your logo can be a frustrating journey. I should know, as I have helped clients trademark countless logos over the years.
Today, I will guide you through this intricate process. Understanding the challenges you may face, together, we’ll discover how to trademark a logo. Let’s begin your trademarking journey.
How to Trademark a Logo
Logos, whether they be for a company or personal use, can be safeguarded by trademarking them with the United States Patent And Trademark Office (USPTO). As long as your business is primarily based in the USA, you can apply for a trademark via the USPTO website.
The main steps you need to take to trademark a logo are:
- Find out whether your logo needs a trademark or not.
- Search for existing trademarks on logos that may be similar or exact to your design.
- Prepare your trademark application.
- File the completed application.
Once you submit a trademark application, a government trademark attorney will examine the materials and make a decision. The USPTO explain the entire process as this:
Application > Examination > Publication > Registration
Trademarks protect intellectual property against possible violation and misuse. A trademark is typically used to represent a company or public figure. They come in the forms of logos, symbols, names, and words, which all need protection to prevent infringement.
Logos, in particular, are especially important as they often represent a brand. Their designs help customers recognize a brand, helping it stand out for competitors. If another organization provides similar services or goods, and decides to use a similar trademarked logo, they could face severe penalties.
Does Your Logo Require a Trademark?
Before you begin your trademark application process with the USPTO, consider whether your logo requires a trademark. After all, if a business has proof that it was the first to use a logo and has used the mark to advertise and sell goods or services, the logo owners are automatic common law owners.
However, trademarks are only protected by common law in the region where the business operates. For protection across the country or worldwide, I recommend you apply for a trademark with the USPTO.
Trademark vs Copyright
Many people query whether their logo needs to be trademarked or copyrighted. They may also confuse one for the other. In truth, they are not the same.
A trademark provides protection for phrases, symbols, or logos; something that represents a brand or company and is used for advertisements, as well as documents.
A copyright is typically associated with creative avenues, such as music, writing, or movies. To be covered by copyright, the material must be recorded in a physical form (not an idea).
Search For Existing Trademarks and Similar Logos (Trademark Watch)
Once you have determined that your logo requires a trademark, you need to complete a trademark search to ensure the logo, or anything similar, has not already been used. You can conduct a search of all registered trademarks via the United States Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
You should consult with a professional trademark attorney to search for trademarks, as the process can be quite complex.
Trademark Application Preparation
Just a quick glance at the USPTO’s page on trademarks, and you will soon see that the process can be quite complex and long. However, you can cut down on the timeframe by preparing everything beforehand.
Altogether, you will need the following bases covered:
- Ensure you have funds ready for application and legal fees. Currently, there is a $325 registration fee, as well as a $50 fee per class of usage.
- Your personal details (name and address of individual or business).
- What the logo represents (services and products, and their class).
- A completed version of the logo, preferably in a JPG format.
- If you have already sold any of your services with the logo, you will need to prepare an example of the logo when used on a product or service (JPG or PDF format).
- To state how and where you plan to use the logo, you will need to complete an “intent-to-use” form. For further, unreported uses in the future, a new intent-to-use form will need to be submitted.
The Logo’s Color
The color of your logo also matters. If it is in color, you will be required to provide a written description of these colors and where they are used. For black and white logos, you can change the colors without any issues.
The colors of your logo, if not black and white, will only be protected if they are reported to the USPTO. If any colors change, the application will need to be amended or a new one will need to be filed.
Why Should You Register a Trademark?
There are a range of benefits to trademarking a logo. Nevertheless, it is down to the owner of the logo to decide whether they want to trademark it or not. Some of the main benefits of trademarking a logo include:
- Legally presumed ownership and usage rights of the trademark are established through the registration certificate in a federal court. This reduces the requirement for extensive supporting evidence.
- Listing your trademark in the USPTO’s database of registered and pending trademarks serves as public notice for those searching for similar trademarks. It displays details including your trademark, application date, registered goods and services, and registration date.
- The owner of the trademarked logo will be permitted to use the federal trademark registration symbol, “®,” alongside their trademark to signify their registration. This can serve as a deterrent against potential infringement by others.
- A trademark allows logo owners to take legal action against those using it without permission, even abroad.
When you decide to register a trademark also matters, as any legal rights may come down to when the application was first submitted.
Timeline for Registering a Trademarked Logo
Many factors can affect the time it takes to register a trademark. The entire process tends to take around seven months to 18 months, due to the complex nature of the procedure. The timeline includes various stages, and the type of trademark you’re seeking can affect the time period.
Current processing times will vary from one application to the next; however, by avoiding certain delays, such as filing your application and response form early, and ensuring post registration protocol is closely followed, the process can be quicker. If any amendments are required or complications arise, the process may take much longer than average.
The USPTO examines hundreds of thousands of trademark applications each year. In December 2021, there was a 172% increase in trademark applications compared with the preceding December. This can also affect wait times, with the approval process alone taking 8.2 months, on average, compared with the usual three to four months.
Should You Trademark a Company Name?
While a company logo is important, serving as a visual representation of the brand, as well as establishing recognition and trust with customers, the company’s name should be trademarked first.
Company names and their logos must be trademarked separately. However, trademarks do not protect the design font, or coloring of a company name; instead, it prevents others from using the name or something similar. Trademarked logos are entirely protected. This includes the logo’s:
- Colors (in some circumstances)
Depending on trademark attorney fees, you can expect to pay in the region of $500 to $1500 for a fully registered trademark. Most trademark fees are calculated on a per-class basis. Costs will be higher if services or goods fall under one or more classes.
Can You Copyright a Logo?
You can copyright a logo, as well as trademark it. As soon as a logo is created, it is considered copyrighted material. As well as this, the copyright owner can also choose to register their logo officially with the U.S. Copyright Office.
How Long Does Trademark Protection Last for a Logo?
Trademark protection for a logo can last for up to 10 years from the date of the initial registration. Every 10 years, the owner of the trademark must renew the trademark with the USPTO. Therefore, trademarks can protect logos forever, as long as renewal fees are paid for (currently $525 per class).
Can You Trademark a Logo by Yourself?
You can trademark a logo by yourself. However, I recommend you hire a qualified trademark attorney or specialist to ensure the process goes smoothly. They can prepare the application from start to finish and deal with any potential complications if they arise. Businesses outside the United States typically require a patent or trademark attorney by law.
Trademarking a logo is a vital step for anyone wishing to safeguard their brand’s visual identity. Although the application process can be time-consuming and complicated, it is important for ensuring long-term protection for a logo.
A trademarked logo can go a long way to building trust and recognition among consumers, while simultaneously defending it from potential infringement.