When deciding to protect your logo or design it can be a bit confusing trying to decide how to protect it. After all, your logo is basically the face of your product line or your services so it makes sense that you'd want to do the right thing when it comes to ensuring that you have exclusive rights to it.
The question is should you copyright your logo or trademark your logo? The answer, surprisingly, may be both.
The US Copyright Office states "copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship." What does this mean exactly?
Each logo or design is going to vary from the next in regard to being eligible for copyright protection, of course, but the key to understanding is learning what is meant by "sufficient authorship." Logos or designs that fall into any one of the two categories are not eligible for copyright protection:
* "familiar symbols or designs," e.g. the peace sign, a single arrow, a Latin cross, etc.
* "mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring," e.g. text in Times New Roman font, Text Using Only Sentence Case, text in purple
An even easier way to think about is to ask yourself one question about your logo - was there any creativity involved at all in designing the logo? If you're using a symbol you found in Microsoft Word or in a clip art program, then no. If you're using a logo you or someone else designed for you that contain a degree of creativity and/or uniqueness of some form or fashion, then yes.
Even if your logo does qualify for copyright protection, do not assume it's the same as trademark protection. Copyrights and trademarks are fraternal twins - obviously related but look nothing alike. Copyrights protect the image itself whereas the trademark protects the image as it is used within the marketplace.
To protect your logo IN CONNECTION with your product line and/or services, a trademark is the way to go. The purpose of having a trademark, be it for a name, logo or slogan, is to obtain exclusive rights to the mark within your particular industry. This ensures that there will not be customer confusion when it comes to your goods/services and another within your industry.
Filing a trademark for a logo is similar to filing a trademark for a name. Comprehensive research is likely needed to ensure that the same or similar design is not already filed. I know what you're thinking - I know my logo is unique OR I paid for my logo to be designed so I know no one else has it - we hear that a lot. The one thing to always remember about trademarks is that the mark need not be exact to another. If there's a chance for customer confusion, it can be a problem.
Shannon Moore is the General Manager for TradeMark Express. Since 1992, TradeMark Express has met the needs of their clients with comprehensive research, application preparation, attorney referrals and trademark consultation. For further details, please visit us on the web at TradeMark Express or call Shannon directly at 800.340.2010.