A logo design is often one of the most iconic identifiers of a brand. In fact, many logos are such a strong part of a company’s identity that consumers can recognize the brand based off of the imagery or design alone. Since your company’s logo can play such a huge role in distinguishing you and your products or services, it’s important that you register it with the United States Patent & Trademark Office in order to reserve its exclusive use for you – preventing any potential confusion with other brands or companies. The trademark process typically follows a definitive path, with each step of the way holding its own challenges. Here are five tips on how to give yourself the best chance of success in trademarking your logo.
1) Come up with an original logo design.
Your logo is a way of identifying your business in a way more visually distinct than your standalone company name. The concept of a logo can mean several different things. It can be an image or a design element, like an animal or a symbol, that you use to identify your business – these are very common types of apparel logos. It can also be your business name alone, but with the text stylized in a unique way. Your logo could also be a combination of the two – graphic and text. The important thing is that your logo is used the same way every time to identify your products or services – and that it won’t be easily confused with an existing logo design (from here on out, a “design” could mean graphics, stylized text, or any combination of the two).
2) Conduct thorough research on your logo.
Your design should be unique enough that it doesn’t bear any resemblance to another business’s logo – especially one in the same industry as yours. Even if you’ve made a good faith effort to create a new, original logo, there’s still a chance that your design may already be in use and trademarked. Before you get started with the submission stage of the trademark application process, you’ll want to conduct some research to make sure that isn’t the case. Researching logo trademarks is a little bit different than researching text-only name trademarks – there are more factors to consider, like imagery and stylization. To lend some order to the vast scope of designs that are possible, and to aid in the research process, the USPTO assigns codes to different types of design elements, which you can filter through based on the particulars of your concept. With hundreds of different codes, however, it may prove difficult to conduct as thorough a search as is necessary. As an overall matter, you should strongly consider hiring a trademark attorney to assist with a design search on your logo.
3) Hire a trademark attorney to assist with search and registration process.
The powerful search tools that a trademark attorney will have available are second only to their expertise in navigating the trademark registration pathway in terms of how useful they can be to the layperson attempting to register a logo. A trademark attorney can conduct a more in-depth search than even the tools available through the USPTO website allow for – and moreover, they can assist and advise you in covering all of your bases in terms of potential conflicts. The sheer volume of design elements to cover – even for a relatively simple logo – can quickly become overwhelming. It’s better to have the assistance of a trademark attorney before you submit your trademark application, than to find out later that you overlooked something in the early steps.
4) Fill out your trademark application for your logo accurately.
Once you and your trademark attorney have reached a reasonable conclusion that your logo is indeed unique and distinct, it’s time to begin the process with the USPTO itself. In filling out your trademark application, you’ll need to not only provide the details of your business, but also provide examples of your logo in any way in which it will be used in commerce. The specificity of a logo – colors, orientation of design elements, and so on – means that you’ll have to be especially thorough in covering the details of your trademark. You’ll also need to demonstrate in which ways the logo will be used – for instance, on a merchandise tag, on a storefront or website, and/or on product packaging. Again, a trademark attorney is a valuable asset to ensure that you fill out your application correctly and completely – and that you don’t inadvertently omit logo versions that you’d like to protect. Once you submit your complete and accurate trademark application to the USPTO, your work is done, for a little while. The review process will take six to eight months, typically, as your application makes its way through the submission queue to reach a government examining attorney.
5) Follow through on your successful trademark application.
The examining attorney will conduct their own research to determine that your logo is unique within your industry and product or service offering, and that there’s no chance of confusion with any other logo and business already registered – and then, your logo will be successfully registered for a trademark. That means that you’re entitled to protection against infringement by any other business under federal jurisdiction, nationwide. Your next steps after successfully trademarking your logo are to use your mark in conjunction with the small circled “R” symbol to signify your registration, and to remain aware of any possible unauthorized uses of your logo.
By following these five tips covering each major step of the logo trademarking process, you’re in excellent position to achieve success in your application submission, and to enjoy the benefits of registration. If you have any further questions you can always contact trademark lawyer Josh Gerben at Gerben Law Firm.