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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 a few things.

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 seek out a professional who can help you through this.

It's not just me, the USPTO recommends this as well.

You can quickly and easily register your trademark through LegalZoom, which is much less expensive than going through a lawyer.

Trademark Your Logo Now

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.

What is a trademark?

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.

In plain english, this means that a trademark is a mark of trade - a word, slogan, image, logo or some combination of these used to connect products with the brand or creator of those produces.

Trademarks need to be distinctive enough so the public can uniquely identify the mark with a product.

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.

What does a trademark protect?

A trademark is meant to protect a brand's identity in the market. To use music as an example, the Rolling Stones use the mouth with its tongue out. When people see this on stage at a live show, they know that the Rolling Stones are performing next.


If another band started using this logo to represent their own music, or even something similar, that could be confusing for Rolling Stones fans.

Making use of a company's logo could be harmful to the original brand if the product infringing on the trademark is making an inferior product. Assuming your trademark is registered, your trademark is infringed upon when another company’s brand elements are similar enough to confuse consumers. Infringing companies must stop using the similar trademark.

If your logo isn't registered, it may be difficult to fight those who attempt to copy you.

Who owns the trademark?

The owner of the trademark is the entity making use of it. So while you could hire a graphic designer to put together your logo for you, the designer doesn't own the trademark if you're the one using it as the image of your brand.

When is a logo trademarked?

Your logo becomes a trademark when it begins being used to represent your products. However, if your trademark isn't registered with the USPTO, it can be difficult to fight off infringers.

Why should you register your trademark?

In the United States, trademarks are protected when they're put to use, which means that they're technically protected under the law once you put them on a product or label.

However, these protections are often geographically limited and difficult to enforce.

You don't have to register your trademark with the USPTO, but you may want to for the following reasons:

  • Registered trademarks are protected under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act which allows trademark owners to sue domain name registrants using identical or confusingly similar trademarks, like Microsoft versus MikeRoweSoft.com.
  • Owners of trademarks registered with the USPTO can ask the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to automatically confiscate imported goods that may be counterfeit and infringing on the trademark.
  • You get trademark protection in countries outside the United States.
  • You can sue infringers federal instead of state court.
  • The trademark is recognized throughout the entire United States instead of your own state alone.

When should you trademark a logo?

You should begin the trademark process as soon as possible - even before your product launches. This way the trademark process is finished and you'll be protected on the day of your product's release.

If your logo is already designed, you can register your trademark through LegalZoom less expensively than through a lawyer.

How do you use trademark symbols?

The ® symbol can only be used for registered trademarks. You aren’t required to use the trademark symbols ™ or ®, but doing so shows that someone owns of the trademark.

You don't need to use the symbols with every or any appearance of your trademark if you don't want to, since they can clutter the visual space and aren’t legally necessary.

How to type out trademark and registered trademark symbols:

  • To type ™ on Windows - hold [Alt] and type "0153"
  • To type ® on Windows - hold [Alt] and type "0174"
  • To type ™ on Mac - hold [Option] and type "2"
  • To type ® on Mac - hold [Option] and type "R"

How to Trademark a 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.


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.

Your trademark must also follow these guidelines:

  • It must not be offensive or misleading.
  • Your trademark must not be too similar to existing ones in their spelling, sound, or meaning in a way that will cause consumers to be confused.

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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