Logo Trademarks: Everything You Need to Know
Distinguishes your business by name, product, slogans, logos, taglines, service names, or sound marks that give you brand recognition with customers.3 min read
2. Logos as Trademarks
3. Trademark Rights for Logos
4. Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration
Logo trademarks benefit your business in many ways, including:
Maintaining your company's identity.
Building and marketing your brand.
Building customer loyalty and a competitive edge through distinctive branding.
Brand recognition is a valuable tool for attracting and retaining customers over time.
Giving your company value for better financial options with banks and lenders.
Distinguishes your business by name, product, slogans, logos, taglines, service names, or sound marks that give you brand recognition with customers.
Understanding the Difference Between a Logo and a Trademark
A trademark is a word, name, tagline, phrase, symbol, design, or other distinguishing marks that identifies a company or person and its products or service from its competitors. This can include company names, slogans, logos, or designs that are unique to the company and identify the goods or services it offers. These distinguishing marks can be a sign, word, symbol, or design that effectively identifies the trademark owner.
A logo is a type of trademark design that is used on products or merchandise that relate to the trademark owner's business. A logo can only be a trademark, however, if it meets the minimum requirements. To qualify, a logo must be a unique mark that both identifies and distinguishes the goods or services provided by the company.
Logos are flexible. They can be a design alone, a design with words or letters, or a design that consists entirely of words and letters in a unique style. Conversely, a trademark can be letters or words with no design but is not considered a logo.
Over time, a powerful logo can become a highly recognizable trademark to consumers.
Logos as Trademarks
Logos are designed to capture and appeal to their target audience. Many powerful logos are used by restaurants. For example, the well-known “golden arches” from McDonald's are instantly recognized throughout the world, as well as KFC's Colonel Sanders and the Jack-in-the-Box logo.
The golden arches stand for the “M” in McDonald's, and they're actually yellow, not gold, though the term “golden arches” is trademarked by the company.
Jack-in-the-Box is the trademarked name of the fast food chain, as well as the design of its logo. It was trademarked as the “clown head design” in 2D, then in 3D with its arms folded.
Colonel Sanders is another logo and character often used to identify KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken uses “KFC” as its trademarked name and its logo.
Trademark Rights for Logos
There are several basic trademark rights guaranteed to a company's logos.
A company automatically has trademark rights for its logo once it is on the market and used to identify and distinguish the company from its competition.
The logo doesn't have to be registered as trademark at the state or federal level.
A logo registered with the state has a public record and notification of the company's trademark in the region.
A logo registered federally has many additional benefits, such as being listed in the federal database of trademarks.
Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration
A logo registered at the federal level has several additional benefits, including:
Legal recognition of ownership.
The exclusive right to use, produce, copy, and profit from the logo's use.
The right to a federal lawsuit if the logo is used without authorization.
Canada registration grants you exclusive rights for 15 years, which can be renewed indefinitely.
Flag trademark use from competitors.
License your trademark and increase your profit and brand recognition.
Many businesses end up facing lawsuits for the unauthorized use of another company's trademarked logo, even if they're unaware of the trademark. Some businesses end up having their logo stolen by someone else, but not much can be done if they didn't protect their design.
Federal registration also helps if two companies try to use the same logo design, often leading to legal issues over trademark ownership. If the logo isn't registered as a trademark, the first company that used the logo becomes the legal owner. If the logo is registered as a trademark, the registered owner is the legal owner. It falls on the opposing company to prove that it used the logo prior to the federal registration. This can be done with a state registration or documented use of the logo at an earlier date.
More information about federally-registered trademarks can be found here.
If you need help with determining logo trademarks, you can post your legal needs 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 like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.