Thinking of trademarking your logo? You may first want to sit down with a trademark lawyer to talk about your reasons for filing and the elements of your logo that you ultimately wish to protect. Here’s why:
Your “Logo” Is More Complex Than You Think
Legally speaking, your logo is more than a cool graphic or cleverly designed illustration that represents your business. It may be either or both a Standard Character Mark or a Stylized Mark, and how you file with the US Patent & Trademark Office will ultimately depend on whether your mark is stylized or not. Typically, a choice is made between registering a mark as a Standard Character Mark, a Stylized Mark, or some combination of both. In a perfect world, with a flexible budget, you would file every iteration of your trademark in order to obtain the broadest protection. We call this building a broad trademark portfolio.
Standard Character Marks
A Standard Character Mark, or a “Word Mark” is used to register words, letters, numbers or a combination of these elements. Protection extends to the literal word, letter, or numbers only. A Standard Character Mark does not offer protection for any stylized element of the logo, such as a specific font, font size, graphic design, or color. It simply protects the phrase—no matter how it’s styled or displayed. As an example, the phrase “ABC Company” would be protected by a Word Mark no matter how it actually looks.
A Stylized Mark (also referred to as a Design Mark), protects the design elements that are incorporated into your logo. With a Stylized Mark, you would be able to register words and letters that have a specific stylized appearance, or marks that have a design element to them. Combinations of words and design elements can also be trademarked and would be considered a Stylized Mark taking into consideration the exact wording of the associated literal element While a Stylized Mark can be seen as narrower and of more limited protection than a Standard Character Mark, there are some aspects that make it broader and more beneficial. For example, if another uses your color scheme or other style elements, they may still infringe upon your mark even without using a confusingly similar literal element.
How Should I Choose?
There are many factors to consider when deciding how to best file your trademark application. Generally, applicants are cost conscious, so if the literal word element of the mark is distinctive enough on its own (e.g. your company name, tagline), we often suggest filing for that mark first because the literal spoken element is what most often a consumer would use to refer to your brand. It’s what will stick in your customer’s mind and something you should first and foremost protect. Your attorney may also decide that it’s best to file for a combination of elements in your mark to ensure the greatest protection of your business and brand as you use your logo in commerce.
Do I Need to Make a “Forever Commitment” to My Design Elements?
When deciding whether to register the literal elements of a mark vs. the stylized elements, we like to discuss with our clients how the company plans to use the logo now and in the future. Will you always want to use the same colors and design elements? What if you want to switch things up? Will it always be horizontal or vertical? Will you always include text in the logo?
Depending on the answer to those questions, you may choose to register the stylized elements that you feel are important in your logo, or simply register the logo in black and white rather than specifying the colors in order to allow yourself a bit more flexibility; you aren’t locking yourself into any particular color scheme, but you are able to claim the general appearance of what your logo looks like. The purpose of your trademark is to stop others from using the same or similar trademark. If the key components of your logo are protected in black and white and you simply change up the color, other companies will still be unable to use a mark that is similar in appearance to yours.
Counsel Matters: Don’t Stress and Don’t Guess
You want your logo to be the visual “face” of your brand. It may appear directly on your products, your website, on your packaging, or in your marketing materials. When it comes to protecting your logo, it’s important to get things right from the start. Our Trademark Attorneys can help you decide the best path forward in registering the different elements of your logo, but we’ll also help you conduct the necessary searches to ensure the logo you have is safe for use and won’t violate someone else’s trademark. Being proactive means you won’t have to change your branding down the road, and YOU won’t get sued for trademark infringement later. If you’d like to discuss your logo and how to best achieve your IP goals, contact our trademark attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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