How to Trademark a Logo Step by Step

How to Trademark a Logo Step by Step


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.

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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.

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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.

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About the Authors:

David Owens and Bruno Tarabichi are experienced trademark attorneys.

Image source: Shutterstock

30 thoughts on “How to Trademark a Logo Step by Step”

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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?

    • 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.

    • Let her own the rights to her logo. You charge her a fee for the work or let it be given or let her give you some money. Any business, the owner should really own everything or others can make claim. It is only fair.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. Thanks for the great guide. It’s awesome that you show us how to work through all the bullshit out there.

    I’ve got another question though. I’m currently setting up a company based in Turkey (I recently moved here after a life in England) but my plan is to expand and sell pretty much worldwide.

    My base of operations (MacBook and me) are based in Turkey, and production and distribution are likely to be in North America and later perhaps in other areas where labor is ethical and fairly priced.

    What’s the best way to deal with a difficulty that comes from something like this? Do I need to register my logo, word mark, slogan and designs in each individual country or is there an umbrella organisation that covers every major country?

    I’d be totally stoked to get your advice.

    Good vibes



  11. thanks for this great article.
    is their any way of knowing that a logo created by me for my company is used by the other company or not?

  12. thanks for this great article.
    is their any way of knowing that a logo created by me for my company is used by the other company or not please help me?

  13. If you redesign your existing registered trademark do you need to re-trademark it or update the information with the USPTO?

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  15. Recently sold my art as a logo-gave the client a one time use form and she paid me $100 for it. The form states I will not resell the image as a logo design to competing businesses and not will she resell it or use it for another type business. I state my name will appear in the image as @xxxxxxx and as my intellectual property can make prints and sell them in my studio. Her atty isn’t liking this contract and says for her to trademark my design as her biz logo I csn not use my original in any capacity. I sent her an image via computer for her use and I still have the original. Any advice is appreciated. Would have charged a lot more than $100 if I knew her intention.

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