Should you trademark your logo? Yes, trademarking a logo is an important part of protecting your business's intellectual property. If you fail to trademark your logo, you will have no way of preventing others from using it, and you may even end up losing the rights to it.

Why You Should Trademark Logos

Protecting yourself legally is the best reason to trademark a logo. Registering a trademark also serves to alert the public that you are the mark's owner and have sole rights to the mark. You are only allowed to use the ® symbol after you have registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO offers registrations for two different marks: trademarks and service marks. A trademark's purpose is to brand a product or good, and a service mark, as its name suggests, identifies the source of service.

Just because you haven't registered your trademark with the USPTO, it doesn't mean that you can't use the mark. The moment you use a logo on a good or product, you have created something known as a common law trademark. With common law trademarks, you can use the ‘TM' symbol, and a common law service mark can be indicated with the ‘SM' symbol. Common law marks do provide some legal protections, but they are limited.

If you want to protect your logo across the country, a federal trademark registration is the best solution. For instance, if you are ever involved in a lawsuit, a trademark registration proves your ownership of your mark and when that ownership first started.

Steps to Trademark a Logo

If you want to trademark a logo, you will need to file the correct application with the USPTO. After the USPTO has received your application, they will review it to make sure that your trademark meets the qualifications for registration.

One trademark registration will not cover all of your business's branding. You will need to file separate registrations for items such as:

  1. Your company's logo.
  2. Your company's name.
  3. Your company's domain name.

In general, the trademark registration process can take up to 16 months, although your application may get approved sooner. Your logo will be legally protected as soon as you have filed your trademark application, so you can start using your mark right away.

The Difference Between Federal and State Trademarks

The main difference between state and federal trademarks is their scope. A state trademark only provides legal protections for your mark in the state where the registration occurred. If you receive a federal trademark, your logo will have protection nationwide. The only drawback of federal trademark registration is that it is reserved for companies that do business in multiple states.

If your business only conducts business in one state, then you may find the protections afforded by a state registration adequate. Businesses that operate online or in several states need the extra protection of a federal trademark registration.

What Do Trademarks Protect?

Typically, a trademark protects one of the following items:

  1. A word.
  2. A phrase.
  3. A design.
  4. A symbol.
  5. A combination of the above items.

Your customers will use your trademark to identify your company's products, which is why protecting your mark is so important. Once you've registered your trademark with the USPTO, you will be able to prevent other people from using your mark on their product.

With a strong trademark, you can distinguish your products from your competitor's and can develop a strong relationship with your customers. For large corporations, trademarks can be an extremely valuable asset.

Because consumers will associate your trademark with your company, you should trademark every item that will be visible to the public, including the name of your brand and your business logo. If you find that someone else is using your trademark without your permission, you can file a lawsuit against them for trademark infringement.

In some cases, you may also want to apply for a copyright to protect your logo. A copyright protects original works of authorship such as paintings and photographs. If your logo includes a unique design and you're using it on items such as apparel, then applying for a trademark can be a good idea.

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