What do Wendy’s, Pillsbury, Arm & Hammer, and Disney all have in common? They all have trademarked advertising characters. Sports teams’ mascots and advertising characters are all intangible things used to distinguish one brand from all others. Mascots and advertising characters, like names, logos, fonts, and even colors, can be protected by federal trademark and copyright. The best way to get granted a trademark for a mascot or advertising character is if it’s unique, it belongs to you, and if it can only be identified with your brand, product, or service. Here are some tips:
Create a unique character.
The goal is to use the character to distinguish your product from all others. Your character or mascot doesn’t need to be completely made up. You can use a human or animal, or some other recognizable thing as long as it can’t be confused with someone else’s character or a real person not affiliated with your business.
Make sure you own the character outright.
Whether you draw the character yourself or hire someone else to do it, make sure that you own the character and that no one else can claim ownership. You definitely want to be sure that whomever you hire to create the character gives you all the rights to it. You should also talk to your lawyer about the pros and cons of sharing ownership with someone else, like a business associate. Bottom line: make sure that all intellectual property belongs to you or your business.
Don’t borrow an image from the internet.
Don’t borrow any images you find on the Internet or use art that is otherwise freely available. Accidentally copying another’s protected work can happen when an artist is a little too “inspired” by something they find, or if they use copyright-protected photographs or graphics. While search engines can provide seemingly endless images, just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking.
Trademark your character sooner rather than later.
In most instance the first to use or constructively use a trademark by filing an application is the owner of the rights in the trademark. The earlier your filing date the better off you will be in a potential dispute.
Hire a trademark lawyer to help you.
The trademark process can be long and exhausting. For the best and fastest results, work with a lawyer who has both knowledge and experience with trademark applications and dealing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If you’d like to talk to our trademark attorneys about your ideas for a company mascot and how to best move forward, contact 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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