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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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How to Trademark a Logo Step by Step

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Protection

Once you have selected a logo for your business, you will want to make sure that you secure the trademark rights to that logo. Before addressing how to secure those rights, we should define the terms “trademark” and “logo.” You may also want to brush up on your copyright in logo design knowledge.

A trademark is a distinctive word, name, phrase, symbol, design, or other device used by a company or person to distinguish its products or services from the products or services of other companies. Trademarks are basically brands, and you can protect your trademark or brand by securing the associated trademark rights. These rights allow you to prevent others from using a confusingly similar trademark or brand.

A logo is a type of trademark that consists of a design that is generally used by company or person and placed on its products or printed material related to its services.  The logo may be a design by itself, a design with letters or words, or a design consisting simply of stylized words or letters. In contrast, some trademarks consist solely of letters or words without any design, but these would not be considered logos.

After selecting a logo for your business, you will want to secure the trademark rights for that logo by trademarking it. Here are step by step instructions for protecting your logo in the United States, noting that protecting your logo in other countries is beyond the scope of this article.

Step One.

Ideally, you will want to make sure that your logo is available for your adoption and use. That is, you will want to make sure that no one else is already using your logo.  To do this, you will want to perform a trademark search. The trademark search will tell you whether someone else has already adopted the identical or a highly similar logo. If someone has already adopted your logo or a highly similar logo and you proceed to use your logo, you may be infringing on their trademark and may get sued for trademark infringement.  While you can try to perform your own trademark search either by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s records or using a search company such as Thomson CompuMark, it is recommended to hire a trademark attorney who can not only conduct the search but who can better define the search criteria and who has the legal expertise to analyze the search results.

Step Two.

Once you have determined that no one else is using your logo, you will want to secure the trademark rights to your logo. There are essentially three ways that you can do this.

First, you can begin to acquire trademark rights just by using your logo in connection with your products or services. However, the rights you obtain just by using your logo are relatively limited as you only acquire rights in the geographic area in which you are using your logo.

Second, if you are only using your logo to do business within one state, then you can file an application to register your trademark with the Secretary of State’s office for your particular state. However, this will only provide you with trademark rights to your logo in that state.

The third way is to file a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you are planning to do business in more than one state, then this is the way to go.  If your trademark application is approved (i.e., registered), it will provide you with trademark rights to your logo across the entire United States. Regardless of the method you choose, you would be wise to consult a trademark attorney to ensure that you are proceeding properly to ensure that you obtain the most protection possible, as trademark applications can be rather complicated and subject to esoteric procedures and rules.

Step Three.

After you have acquired trademark rights to your logo, you will likely want to protect it against the unauthorized adoption and use by third parties. This is known as enforcing your trademark rights. The best way to do this is to have a “trademark watch” in place. A trademark watch will alert you when third parties start using a logo that is too close to yours. You will then be able to decide whether you need to take action such as sending a cease and desist letter or instituting a trademark infringement lawsuit. You can order a trademark watch yourself through companies such as Thomson CompuMark, but it is probably wiser to hire an attorney to put the watch in place as the attorney will have the expertise to advise you when it makes sense to object to another party’s use of a particular logo.

If you follow the above steps, you should successfully legally protect and enforce your trademark rights in your logo.

About the Authors:

David Owens and Bruno Tarabichi are experienced trademark attorneys that work for trademark-sentinel.com. You can visit their website for more information about their trademark registration services.

Image source: Shutterstock

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17 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • @laurenlankford Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this. I get asked this question all the time, and I’ll just be forwarding this post now. :)

  • Andres Reply

    Great post! Do you have any tips to find out if the logo/concept is already in use by another company during the design process? Before you present the logo/concepts to the clients?

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Andrea,
    A good place to start is logo image galleries, tradmarkia, google images, etc. If you see a similar concept, get more creative & come up with something more unique.

  • michael Cousins Reply

    Thanks alot for this post, I was just looking into this subject this week. This was a huge concern of mine, thanks again for this resource.

  • Jamila Reply

    Thanks Jacob! This is great!

  • Dave Reply

    What a great thing to have.

  • Faraz Reply

    great informative and very useful article.I have never read any tutorial on this topic.Thank for sharing this information.

  • kanon Reply

    Where do you begin finding a trademark attorney? And how much does that cost on top of the actual cost just for the trademark itself? I might check out legalzoom.com

  • John Di Giacomo Reply

    Kanon,

    I am a trademark attorney that works for an Internet-based full service trademark law firm. Give me a call and I can provide you with prices for our registration services.

    John

  • Erenovations Reply

    This is hard to find info on the net, thanks just made it crystal clear for me, does any one knows the cost involve in registering logo for trade marks for websites? nation wide. thanks

  • Gary Reply

    Hi There,
    If you want some information on how to trade mark, I found this site:
    http://www.trademarksmadeeasy.com
    There are three free reports that give an overview of what you need to do and why.
    Hope this helps everyone.
    Gary

  • Kanon Reply

    Erenovations – Legal Zoom will handle the trademark application for you for $169 + gov. fees ($325). Or you can do it yourself for just the $325 @ USPTO.gov

    http://www.legalzoom.com/trademarks/trademarks-pricing.html

    http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/index.jsp

  • Jody Ricci Reply

    I am an artist and recently painted an image for a friend as a gift. She has now informed me that she is going to trademark the image and use it for her business. As the artist do I hold the copyright to all of my paintings and would my friend need a legal letter from me confirming I give her the right to use the image? Should I also charge a fee and what would be an acceptable price to expect?

    • Kanon Reply

      Jody, you may not feel this way now, but I would take it as a compliment that your friend would want to use it for her business. BUT in a business frame-of-mind, yes I could see it as being somewhat legal issue since your artwork will be reproduced in various manners and I’m assuming when the gift was given, the ability to reproduce your artwork was not part of the deal. In all fairness, a friend should’ve at least asked for your permission to do so as a courtesy to you. That being said, I wouldn’t hassle your friend about the trademark, but for the health of your conscience, I would be up front with your feelings about it and confront them softly about it.

  • Suzanna Kiraly Reply

    Thanks for the clear info, Jacob. I am thinking of getting a trademark for a new idea I have. The “trademark watch” sounds interesting. I didn’t know about that.

  • steven Reply

    sooooo…. in short hire an attorney. This was extremely uninformative.

  • Gail Reply

    Hi Jacob! Thank you for such great information and I have to say your work is stunning! I have a client who want to Trademark his logo and I have 2 questions.

    1. In corporate settings I have added a TM to the logo itself until the legal dept went through the process of getting it registered and using the ®. As a designer the mark really bugs me! It can get too small and lost – it can get too large on big signage and is just in the way. And never mind trying to embroider it. You don’t mention adding the mark itself. Is it necessary? I was always told if you added the mark you were covered and you had to have it to be legally covered.

    2. I did a name search before creating the logo and found it was taken. It turns out a former co-worker stole this clients idea and ran with it in Mexico – but it seems like the company is now either not operating or very tiny. All they have is a bad Facebook page. Should I be concerned?

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