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You've designed an awesome logo and want to have it legally protected.

We've discussed trademarking a name before, but logo rights are a little different.

Before we get into trademarking a logo, lets go over what, exactly, a trademark and logo are.

Trademarks protect a distinctive word, phrase, symbol, or design used to distinctively identify a product or service. So, trademarks identify your brand, and you can protect your logo or name by acquiring the associated trademark rights.

A logo is a specific type of trademark that is used to identify a product or service through a specific design. This can include a stylized set of letters or words, or a simple icon that represents your brand.

Note: This article contains affiliate links where the author may receive a commission on sales.

Do you copyright or trademark a logo?

A copyright covers original works of authorship, such as a book, song, or movie.

A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs made to identify a distinguishable source of a good or service.

A logo can be both copyrighted and trademarked.

Generally, the copyright for the logo goes to the designer with a license for you to use it, unless the designer transfers the copyright ownership to you. When you get your logo designed, have your designer sign a written statement transferring the copyright to you. Once you do this, you can register the copyright if needed.

The trademark, however, goes to the user of the logo.

Trademarking your logo DIY vs. seeking professional help.

While I'd say you can easily register a copyright on your own, trademarks are much more complicated. It's best to hire a lawyer to help you through this.

Alternatively, you can register your trademark through LegalZoom much less expensively than through a lawyer.

Either way, to learn more about the process, read on.

1. See if you can trademark your logo

Before trademarking your logo, here are some things you want to keep in mind:

  • Your logo can't be too similar to one that's already in use.
  • Your logo can't be offensive or misleading.
  • Your logo can't cause confusion.

A quick way to check if your logo is already being used is to use Google image search.

When you have the design for your logo, head over to images.google.com, and click on the camera icon in the search box.

google-image-search

Just upload your image to search the internet for similar images. If nothing turns up, you may be in luck.

However, you aren't done yet. While the logo may not be indexed by Google, someone may have recently trademarked it, so you'll need to conduct a trademark search.

You can do this yourself at the USPTO's website, but I'd recommend hiring an attorney or using a service like LegalZoom to conduct the trademark search.

If you decide to do this yourself, check out the USPTO's trademark search resource page here.

2. Consider who will own the trademark

If you play in a band, for example, members can come and go, which can make assigning the trademark to an individual very problematic.

Instead, you want to set up a business entity and have this entity own the trademark to your name and logo. You can read about the pros and cons of different business types here.

Once you decide on the type of business you want to set up, you can get things completed quickly and quite inexpensively through LegalZoom. However, if your business establishment needs are more complex, I'd recommend consulting an attorney.

3. Acquire your trademark

While you can gain trademark rights by simply using your logo in connection with your brand, these rights are only assigned to you within the geographic area which you're using the logo, and are difficult to enforce.

The best way to get your trademark on a national level is to register it with the USPTO.

The USPTO allows you to easily submit your trademark application online using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), which you can access through the their website here.

There are three different types of TEAS applications. Here they are with their filing fees (as of February 2017):

  • TEAS Plus: $225
  • TEAS Reduced Fee: $275
  • TEAS Regular: $400

The USPTO has put together this video to explain the differences between these applications:

Trademarks are quite complex, so it's best to consult an attorney on this matter. Alternatively, you can register your trademark through LegalZoom to get the benefit of proper registration much less expensively than through a lawyer.



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