A combined trademark is made up of more than one component, such as a company's name and logo merged into a single design. If you followed this course of action when you applied for your trademark, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approved it, then you own the trademark to that symbol but not the individual parts. The name alone or the logo alone are not covered by the trademark laws. The way to avoid this is to file one trademark application for the name and another for the logo. Protecting each part of your trademark is expensive, so it's usually done only by companies with significant resources.

It may be worth the cost, however. Your trademark is one of the most valuable assets your business owns. You'll use it in your branding, advertising, packaging, and more. It's important to make the proper arrangements up front to ensure maximum protection against infringement.

Elements of a trademark

When you apply for your trademark, you will have to specify whether you're including numbers, words, or letters, as well as a company logo and design elements such as font, color, or graphics. Those specialized elements are called special form marks. If you don't use any of those elements, then the USPTO will assume that you're only using standard character marks.

Standard character marks

Standard character marks are numbers, letters, and words without design elements added or claimed. They must be part of the USPTO's standard character set. One example of a standard character mark is United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,452,359, the word “STARBUCKS."

Mark with a certain font or text style

This variety of mark includes only the text and style without an attached logo. Consider IBM's United States Trademark Registration No. 1205090 for an example. The trademarked “IBM” appears in the familiar horizontal stripes.

Logo alone

This is a mark without any standard characters. The Nike swoosh is an example of a logo mark, which is protected by United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,232,243.

This combines standard characters adjacent to a logo. United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,325,938 protects the mark made up of the word “NIKE” combined with the swoosh logo. The combined parts must make up a recognizable symbol.

Logo with embedded text

A logo with embedded text includes standard characters embedded into a logo. Starbucks U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 1,815,937 is an example. The text “STARBUCKS COFFEE” is set inside the logo.

Color as part of the mark

This mark claims color as an element of the trademarked image, such as Exxon Mobil's U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 3,787,476, where some of the letters are blue and the O is red.

Trademarking each of the elements

Nike owns:

  • United States Trademark Reg. No. 0,978,952 on the standard characters in the word “NIKE."
  • United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,232,243 on the “swoosh” logo alone.
  • United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,325,938 on the combination of the word "NIKE" with the “swoosh” logo.

Starbucks owns:

  • United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,452,359 on the standard characters in the word “Starbucks.”
  • United States Trademark Reg. No. 1,815,937 on the Starbucks logo including the words “Starbucks Coffee.”

These companies achieved this level of protection by applying for trademark protection for:

  • the standard characters.
  • the logo and the words in combination.
  • the logo by itself without the word, but only if the logo is sometimes used alone.

Disadvantages of combined trademarks

Let's say you use an approved combined trademark in your business. A few years into your operation you decide it's time to update your logo and want to separate the business name from the symbol. That's when you realize that you don't own a trademark on the name or the logo separately. Your trademark only applies to the combined image, limiting how you can use the individual components.

To correct this, you have to apply for a trademark for the name and another for the logo. However, you may find that this is not possible. One of your components may be covered by someone else's trademark or it may be considered descriptive and ineligible for registration.

If you need help with establishing the protection of a combined trademark, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies such as Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.