Trademarks have a fundamental role in branding, as they protect the identity of business brands and help preserve the impression that evokes positive emotions in consumers. In this article, you will discover whether a logo is the same as a federal trademark.
Is a Logo the Same as a Federal Trademark? – The Verdict
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines trademarks as “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.”
In essence, a trademark is a point of connection between brands and their customers, allowing them to recognize the source of goods or services and distinguish different companies in the same segment.
If a logo identifies the source of goods or services, it may be possible to register it as a federal trademark. Please note that not all logos must necessarily meet USPTO’s strict criteria for trademark registration.
A logo must be associated with a brand’s identification in the marketplace to qualify for trademark registration. A great example is McDonald’s Golden Arches. Originally a part of the restaurant’s design, it was trademarked and became of the greatest symbols of the brand.
Federal Trademark Registration – Logo vs. Brand Name
As long as the applicant’s marks meet USPTO’s requirements, it is possible to trademark both logos and brand names. In such cases, the best strategy is to file the applications for each mark separately.
Hence, if both marks are registered in the same application, one will lose protection if the other mark eventually changes. For instance, a change in a business logo may result in the expiration of the brand name registration.
To avoid exposing any registered logos, names, or any marks to uncertainty, applicants must file each application individually.
Some business owners may prefer to apply for copyright protection on logos. While this alternative is not necessarily ineffective, copyright will only protect an exact copy of the registered logo used by competitors.
Hence, copyright protection is not effective in preventing competitors from slightly modifying a registered logo and using the changed version. Ultimately, federal trademark registration provides nationwide protection and the presumption of ownership.
Do I Need to Apply for a Trademark to Shield a Business Logo from Infringement?
Unlike many business owners might think, trademark rights do not necessarily come from registration but from their use in business.
Both federal and state law grants some level of protection to unregistered trademarks, also referred to as “common law trademarks.” Please note that this type of trademark only enjoys limited protection.
Additionally, unregistered trademarks exclusively apply to the geographic area where the owner of the mark is providing goods or services. Conversely, trademark registration provides broader rights and protections.
It is possible to register a trademark at the state or federal level. State registration is generally cheaper and has less stringent requirements, which is often a good option for companies in the start-up phase.
Federal registration with USPTO can be more complex, but the level of protection is worth the time and effort involved in the process.