How to Trademark a Logo
How to Trademark a Logo is part of our How to Trademark series. This page covers how to patent a logo and how to copyright a logo since generally these rights are protected by trademark.
While simply using your logo in commerce can establish some rights, it’s not enough to grant full federal protection. This could leave your brand open to dilution, infringement, and loss of rights. This is why it’s imperative that you understand how to trademark your logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
As an initial matter, it is important to note that rather than file for a logo, our general advice is to file for your words only trademark first. Then, if you have a logo that is very important and unlikely to change, then file for your logo as a second application. The reason for this is partly because people tend to remember the word portion of your trademark much more than the logo version. This makes the word only portion much more important and valuable. Also, logos tend to change over time which means that you may one day have to abandon your logo registration. Lastly, words only trademark registration generally provide the broadest protection from infringement. For more information on filing for the word only portion of your trademark, please see our how to trademark a name page.
How to Get a Trademark on a Logo
The process of securing federal protection over your logo provides several benefits. Fortunately, the steps you’ll take are very similar to any other trademark registration. Whether an applicant is seeking a trademark over their brand name, slogan, logo or other brand identifier, the following process should be taken.
Choose a Trademark
Selecting a brand identifier is the first – and arguably the most important – step in how to trademark a logo. Many brands choose to outsource the design of their logo to third parties. Even if you have a good idea of how you want the symbol to look, it’s important that the design be high quality in nature. This is what the USPTO will save in its file to represent your company. Focus on making your logo both unique and recognizable, and you’ll be on the right path. If you end up significantly changing your logo at any time in the future, you will have to abandon your logo trademark registration and file for the new logo.
Conduct a Trademark Search
Trademark search is a generally suggested step prior to filing a trademark application. That said, typically doing a search for a word only trademark is much more important than doing a search for a design. Also, designs can be trickier and more costly to search. For more information, please see our trademark search page.
Prepare Your Application
To start your trademark application, you’ll need the contact information of the owner, the logo being applied for, the trademark class your products or services fall under and the appropriate codes from the Design Search Code Manual.
If you’re already using your logo in commerce, you’ve met the initial requirement of registration. You can still submit an application, though, if you have a bona fide intent to begin commercial use. This could occur if you’re creating your business plan prior to starting your company. A sworn statement is sufficient for an Intent to Use Trademark application, but you should also have some physical evidence documenting your intent to use.
You can choose one of three application options:
- TEAS Plus: Fees are $250 per class, but additional requirements must be met in addition to handling everything digitally.
- TEAS RF: Fees are $350 per class, but the requirements are less stringent than TEAS Plus. The process must still be handled digitally.
- TEAS Regular: Applicants pay the full $400 fee per class. Only the minimum requirements must be met, but the digital process is still recommended.
You must meet the requirements of the application you use, or your trademark registration could be delayed in addition to facing extra fees. Ensure that all information is accurate to avoid possible rejection and forfeiture of your filing fees.
Monitor the Application’s Status
Use the Trademark Document Retrieval System (TDSR) to monitor your application’s progress. You’ll typically receive a receipt of submission immediately, but this doesn’t signify that anything has processed. Monitoring the TDSR will ensure you’re made aware of any problems and don’t miss any deadlines.
Work with the USPTO Examining Attorney
Within three to four months of sending in your application, an examining attorney will review your trademark application. They’ll make sure that you’ve complied with the relevant laws and met the necessary filing requirements. This will include a review of your logo’s drawing, proof of commercial use and any supplemental information.
If your application is complete, the examining trademark attorney will ensure that your design is neither descriptive nor generic. They’ll then search to see if a likelihood of confusion may exist if your logo is granted registration. If an issue arises at any step of this process, you’ll receive an Office Action.
The Office Action letter will explain the reasons your logo cannot yet be registered. The issues described can often be fixed, but you must do so and respond to the action within six months. If you don’t provide an appropriate answer by this deadline or fail to correct the issues, your application will be denied.
File a Statement of Use
If you filed on an intent to use basis, you will eventually need to submit a Statement of Use. Once you receive a Notice of Allowance, you have six months to file your statement of use or request an extension. After filing, the examining attorney will review the evidentiary specimens you’ve included to prove use in commerce. You may receive an Office Action if there’s an issue with your submission.
The Trademark Registers
Once an examining attorney approves your application, the remaining steps in how to trademark a logo could potentially be simple. The design will be published in the Official Gazette for a 30-day opposition period. If no one submits a Trademark Opposition or requests an extension to oppose, your trademark will register about three months following publication.
If a third party does oppose your logo application, you could end up before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Fortunately, only about 3 percent of published trademarks will end up engaged in an opposition proceeding.
Type of Logo Trademarks
There are several types of trademarks that can be registered, and the one you choose will dictate your logo’s level of protection. It will all come down to how well your product is distinguished from others. The general rule is that logos only very rarely become identified with a brand. The reason is that it takes millions of dollars of advertising or repeated exposure to a design for consumers to associate it with a brand. That said, there are famous logos such as the Nike swoosh and McDonalds arches.
Trademark protection levels lie on a spectrum ranging from fanciful to generic. If you’ve not yet chosen a logo, you should consider each option and its benefits before moving forward.
- Fanciful: Logos that fall under the fanciful umbrella are completely unique. Due to the design’s uniqueness, it is sometimes eligible for copyright registration as well. This is the highest level of protection available.
- Arbitrary: These logos aren’t typically unique, but they’re unique within the brand’s industry. The logo for Apple, for example, has nothing at all to do with computers.
- Suggestive: Logos that are suggestive describe an aspect of the represented product/service, but they require a bit of imagination. The jaguar utilized by Jaguar, for instance, signifies speed.
- Descriptive: Trademarks that are descriptive in nature directly represent an attribute of a product/service. They do not provide much protection.
- Generic: A logo that would qualify as generic might be a common rendition of a baseball bat for a sports store. Granting rights over such a basic image would hurt other companies within the industry, so generic logos are never registrable.
It’s important to make your logo as unique as possible. Consumers may otherwise confuse your products with others. Gucci and Chanel, for instance, each created their logos out of basic letters. Since these letters are just mirrored versions of the first letter of each brand’s name, they look very similar to each other.
By designing a logo that’s truly unique, you can reduce the chance of encountering issues with the USPTO examining attorney and make instances of trademark infringement less likely and easier to identify.
How to Trademark a Logo and Name
Understanding how to trademark a logo is important if you plan on using the same design to represent your brand in the long term. It’s important to recognize, though, that securing protection over your branded name is also essential. In fact, we recommend that budding entrepreneurs trademark their word only brand name before anything else.
Fortunately, understanding how to trademark a logo and name simultaneously doesn’t add much difficulty. The main issue to avoid is registering the two brand identifiers together. While it may seem financially sensible to submit your business name and logo on the same application, this will minimize your level of protection for each element. This is why we recommend starting with the word only version, and then file the design only element.
If Apple had only submitted an application with their brand name emblazoned below an apple, for instance, this iteration of their logo would be the only property protected. Neither the name nor logo would be registered on its own. Understanding the process of how to trademark a logo will protect one of your brand’s most valuable forms of intellectual property.
If you need assistance with filing a trademark application for a logo, please contact us.