Many of you are already familiar with the little superscript symbols corresponding to company names and logos—™ and ®. However, you may not know what they mean. The symbol ™ (trademark) is typically used when a trademark has been applied for but not already registered. As soon as the trademark is officially registered, the ® symbol is used for indicating ‘registered trademark’.
A trademark is a name, logo, word or symbol that represents a brand and the trademark laws are used to protect the infringement of any or all of these intellectual properties. Since a lot of time and money are invested in creating a company’s visual identity, it’s important to know how to trademark a name and logo.
Simply using your custom logo design in everyday business dealings and campaigns automatically entitles you to a common right law. However, it does not stop someone else from using a near identical logo design or name as yours- only a registered trademark does. For example, you use a logo as a trademark for selling homemade chocolates online and in your neighborhood. As your business expands and gains recognition, you’d want to consider getting a federal registration to protect your trademark and brand identity.
Why is it important to trademark a logo?
Although it’s not mandatory to trademark a brand logo or name, there are several benefits of doing so.
Priority: A registered trademark gives you the right and priority to use that design or content. In case of a missing trademark, you’re only entitled to use it in a certain geographic area. Someone in a close-by community may use a similar or even identical logo design, and you cannot do anything to stop them, even if you were the first one to use it. Copying your brand’s visual identity, particularly the name and logo can tarnish its reputation and diminish your product or service value.
The good news is, if your logo is trademark registered, you can sue the other person or brand for treachery. This could be also helpful if you’re planning to expand your business to other markets or geographies, where a similar design is already in use. Trademark registration gives you the right to own the logo design and use it in relation to the goods or services mentioned in your registration.
Lawsuit: If your logo is trademark registered, you have the right to sue any person or organization that uses your design without prior consent. In certain instances, the trademarked logo can be enough to contest and win the court case. Sometimes, it’s also possible to bring criminal charges against someone or some organization for illegal use of a trademarked logo.
Money: Even when you drag someone to court for trademark violation, a proper trademark allows you to claim money for damages done to your brand’s reputation.
Import of Foreign Goods: A registered trademark also helps stop the import of overseas goods that would infringe upon your trademark. This helps prevent your brand identity from being misused by others.
Foreign Registration: If your logo is trademarked in the United States, you can also register your trademark in foreign lands. This way, if you ever plan to extend your business and sell your products in foreign markets, the process becomes easier.
Valuable Asset: From equipment and inventory to technology to marketing materials, there are many investments that go into the smooth running of business. While these things are key to the effective functioning of your business, they won’t rise in value over time. However, a registered trademark is an investment that will increase over time. For very little upfront expenditure and renewal fees, you will have a record on your books that rises in value as your business expands.
This can also prove beneficial in the long run if you ever want to sell your business. Although selling your business may not be your concern at present, it’s helpful to know that a trademark can be sold along with a brand, just like any other asset. As a matter of fact, a registered trademark is typically preferred by investors or those interested in procuring a business. Buyers often prefer businesses with a registered trademark, since they know that the protections against infringement are already in place.
Enhanced Popularity: A sound online presence is key to any strong business marketing strategy. With more and more people joining the digital bandwagon (social media or online search engines) to look for various goods and services, a unique registered trademark can help your customers distinguish you from the others. A strong trademark should be impressive and readily recognizable. This way, your consumers can easily find your website and social media accounts through a simple search of your mark.
How to trademark a logo?
The application process for a trademark is pretty simple. What makes things complicated is ensuring that your design is 100 percent original and yours to apply and own.
This is the first and most important step for registering a trademark. The purpose is to ensure that your logo or a similar logo design is not already in use. For this, a search is typically done on the United States Trademark Electronic Search System or TESS, an online database that catalogs all officially registered trademarks.
A lot of people prefer hiring a professional trademark researcher or trademark attorney for this crucial step in the process. This is because searching trademarks may appear simple, but there are certain techniques to use.
Remember, you’re not only looking for a trademarked logo that replicates yours, but also the ones that are event faintly similar. If your logo design is similar to someone else’s, it won’t be approved for trademark. This covers misspellings and even similar wordings.
Trademark application process:
- Conduct a trademark search.
- Secure your rights.
- Submit an initial application at uspto.gov on the Trademark Electronic Application System or TEAS.
- Fill out the TEAS form for an initial application. Be sure to upload the file of your logo.
- Submit an “intent-to-use” form. This form states how and where the logo will be used. If other uses are added in the future, you must file a new “intent-to-use” form.
- Pay the fees. There will be a $325 fee for the trademark application and a $50 fee per class of usage.
Secure your rights
If you plan to use your logo throughout your state or nationally, trademark registration is a must for receiving protection. Statewide protection is approved and provided by the Secretary of State in your state. National protection is typically approved with a trademark from the USPTO. An important part of trademark registration is application of the trademark or intent-to-apply. You may begin using your logo before submitting a trademark registration.
Your initial application can be submitted online at the USPTO’s website.
When applying for a logo trademark, think if you want to submit a color logo or a black and white logo. A lot of businesses may choose to register the colored version of their logo, but this might not be a good idea.
If your logo is trademarked in color, you cannot change the color without revising your trademark application or submitting a fresh application. The color is a crucial part of the trademark.
The cost of logo trademark registering can vary widely, depending on a few factors. There are two main areas of expense:
- Trademark application
- Attorney fees
If you choose to fill out the application form without the help of an attorney, the fees will be around $500. This amount is non-refundable.
Note: The fee amount may change if there is any late payment, extension or if reapplication is required.
Prior to submitting your trademark application, make sure that you have only the final version of the logo. This is extremely important because changes or modifications aren’t allowed to be made once the application is submitted. Although minor changes may be acceptable, they need to be backed with proper credentials, submission of fees, and approval from the USPTO. In case you change the logo after submitting the trademark application, you may have to submit a completely new application for the new design.
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PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.