Logos serve as distinct identifiers and leave an indelible impact on clients. Think about how powerful image like the Nike swoosh or the McDonald’s arches is in keeping these worldwide brands in the minds of consumers.
Consider trademarking a logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office if you want to protect your brand and its unique identifiers (USPTO). Although trademarking a logo is a very simple process, crucial considerations should be made before, during, and after the application filing process.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or image that is distinctive enough to be registered as a company’s brand. Business owners obtain legal protection against counterfeits, copycats, and fraud by trademarking a logo. Other companies who provide identical goods or services, including foreign entities that import products into the United States, face heavy fines if they use a design that is similar to a trademarked logo.
How to Trademark a Logo?
By registering a unique logo with the USPTO, it can be trademarked. If the business for which they’re authorized to file is primarily situated within the United States, anyone can apply online at the USPTO website. If you are based outside of the United States, you will need to hire a patent attorney to file your patent.
- Determine Whether You Need a Trademark
Because the process takes time, effort, and money, it’s critical to first determine if a trademark registration with the USPTO is necessary. When a company starts using a logo to advertise and sell goods or services, it automatically acquires common law ownership and the limited protections that come with it—but only if the company can show it was the first to use the mark. A trademark’s legal protection under common law is limited to the geographic area in which the business operates. If you need nationwide protection, registering a logo with the USPTO is a good idea.
- Search for Existing Trademarks
Before filing for a logo trademark, it’s a good idea to look for any existing trademarks that might be similar. If the logo supplied is likely to be confused with existing logos for similar goods or services, the application may be refused. Logos should never be generic and should always be specific to the company.
Use the Trademark Electronic Search System to look for already trademarked logos on the USPTO website (TESS). Some experts, including those who created the USPTO website, suggest that a business owner hire an attorney or a specialist firm to do this search on their behalf. Attorneys are trained in particular ways that allow them to do a more complete search before applying. This could be especially useful in the case of graphic marks.
- Prepare the Application
The application procedure might be lengthy and complicated. Because applications can be completely rejected for minor errors, and costs are non-refundable, it’s critical to double-check each section of an application before submitting it. An attorney who specializes in patents and trademarks may be able to assist you with this process. Lawyers will be able to describe the logo in terms that are more familiar and understood by the USPTO than newcomers to the process. In the long run, this can save time and effort, especially if there are any unforeseen issues.
For the application process, gather the following information:
- Name, address, and personal information of the entity filing the trademark application. This could be a person or a company. (Note that individuals and businesses based outside the United States will need to employ an attorney to complete this process.)
- The product(s) or service(s) that the logo will represent, as well as the class of products or services for which the trademark will be registered.
- The final version of the logo or design as a JPG image file. You’ll also need a description of the colors and where they’re used if your logo is in color.
- A JPG or PDF file containing a “specimen” of how the logo appears on the product or service itself. (This only applies to applicants who have used the logo in commerce, which means the business owner has already sold products or services using the brand.) Those who want to utilize a logo for service in the future will have to produce this proof.
- Appropriate funding is required.
Take into account the logo’s final version as well. Is it going to be color or black-and-white? .. While many trademarks appear in color on products or in marketing materials, registering a trademark in color only protects the logo when it is exhibited in those colors. If the color of the logo is changed, the business owner must revise the original application or reapply for a new trademark. You can add or alter colors to a trademarked black and white version without having to file a new trademark application.
- File the Application
On the USPTO’s website, you can fill out the application. Depending on the filing choice, the USPTO gives thorough instructions on how to access the online application. The Trademark Status and Document Retrieval tool can be used to verify the status of an application after it has been submitted (TSDR). The USPTO recommends reviewing the progress of an application five to seven days after it is submitted, although reports suggest that if flaws are discovered, the process could take months.
The filing is assigned a serial number and a government trademark attorney after it is received. The examining attorney will examine the papers and conduct a clearance search to ensure that there are no existing logos for similar goods or services that are confusingly similar to the applicant. The examining attorney will authorize the logo for publishing in a USPTO online journal if the application meets all of the legal standards and there are no conflicts with existing logos. The trademark will be registered if no one files opposition to it after it is published.
If there are any problems with the application, the examining attorney will send the applicant an office action. Within six months, the applicant must provide a response that addresses any issues raised in the office action. Failure to do so will result in the logo being rejected.
After the Logo Is Approved
A trademark owner will have exclusive rights to use the logo within the designated goods or services class anywhere in the United States once the logo is registered with the USPTO. The owner has the right to sue for any unauthorized use of the mark, as well as to submit a petition to prevent foreign items bearing your brand from being imported into the United States.
A trademark watch can be set up by engaging an attorney or using a specialized service. The attorney or service will keep an eye out for unauthorized usage of a trademarked logo. For people concerned about fraud or misuse, a service like this could be beneficial in detecting such problems.
Trademarks are valid for ten years. Be aware that a trademark renewal will be necessary after the completion of ten years.