How to trademark a logo easily with online tools.
There’s good reason to trademark a logo, even if it’s so distinctive you can’t imagine anyone copying it. Trademarking your logo provides you legal protection against competitors using your logo, product, slogan, tagline, or business name. Read on for everything you need to know about how to trademark a logo, from applying for and securing a trademark to how and where to add a trademark to your logo to protect your brand.
What exactly is a trademark?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a trademark as “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.” The USPTO goes on to say that a trademark “provides legal protection for your brand” and “helps you guard against counterfeiting and fraud.”
Notice the organization didn’t mention anything about trademark registration? That’s because you don’t need to register your trademark for it to be in effect. The minute you create and begin using any type of the above-mentioned intellectual property in representation of your goods and services (i.e., commercial pursuits), it’s technically your trademark, or your “mark” relating to your “trade.” Such trademarks are considered “common law trademarks.”
Here’s the catch: While you have some legal rights associated with an unregistered trademark, they’re limited to the geographic area in which you do business. If you’re operating in Tallahassee, Florida and a business like yours in Modesto, California happens to use the same name or trademark, you aren’t protected.
A registered trademark is a different story. When you register your trademark with the USPTO, you broaden your legal rights, allowing you exclusive rights over your trademark throughout the entire United States (international rights are also available via a more extensive application). With a registered trademark, these rights are in effect whether or not your logo includes a trademark symbol (®).
There is one caveat: Your trademark is only protected against companies that are offering products or services similar to yours. If you’re selling body scrubs in Tallahassee under the brand name “Brown Sugar” with a sweet logo to match and that Modesto company’s Brown Sugar company has the same name and a similar logo but is selling sugar, you don’t have the same protections.
Why it’s important to trademark a logo.
Here’s why you need to trademark a logo: Whether you’re a startup, small business, or larger corporation, a registered trademark is important for business owners because it impedes others from operating as a brand that looks like you and offers goods or services similar to yours.
A trademark also gives you the ability to take legal action if someone is using your trademarked logo without your permission. Often, when you have a registered trademark, a simple cease and desist letter from an attorney can resolve any trademark infringement issues.
How to trademark a logo.
When you’re ready to trademark your logo, securing a federal registration can be done online through the USPTO website. The registration process is straightforward, albeit a little time consuming for someone new to using their Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
If you go through the trademark application process without the help of a trademark attorney, the only charge will be a filing fee. Filing fees vary depending on whether you file a “TEAS Plus” form ($250 per trademark class) or “TEAS Standard” form ($350 per trademark class).
The fee also depends on the number of classes you file for. Selling food and clothing under your brand name? That’s two different classes.
You can and should read through the details on the initial applications form page. It should provide you with all the information you need. But you may want to consult a trademark attorney if you’re unclear on the right direction for your business or need help making sure your trademark is not already in use and is distinctive enough to be approved as a registered trademark. But essentially, the form you should use is the one you can meet the requirements for when you file for your trademark.
Later, when it’s time to renew your trademark, you won’t need to repeat the entire application process or figure out how to trademark a logo again. You’ll simply need to show that any existing trademarks are in use in commerce.
How and where to add a trademark to your logo.
Now that you know how to trademark a logo, you can consider how to showcase your trademark in your logo. Even before you register your trademark with USPTO, you can ward off potential copycats by adding the symbols “TM” (if you sell goods) or “SM” (if you offer services) to your logo. Each is a declaration that you’re claiming your trademark.
Once you’ve registered your mark, you can switch to the almighty “®” symbol, which indicates federal trademark registration.
It’s not required for you to include any symbol in order to maintain trademark protection. It’s up to you whether you include one or not.
To include any trademark symbol in your logo, follow these two easy steps:
- Decide where you want the “®” (registered trademark symbol) to appear within your logo design. You can place it above or below or on either side, and you can make it small in superscript or subscript.
- You can use Adobe Express to add your trademark symbol to your logo. Just upload your logo to the app then add the trademark symbol from the icon tray within the app, moving it around to see where you like it best.
How to make sure you have a strong logo design for your trademark.
Before you try to trademark your logo, make sure you have a strong logo design. It can include your company name, company logo, or both, but it should be distinctive and indicative of your brand identity. If your name and logo look like a similar trademark that’s already registered, your version is less likely to be approved. Plus, the point is to stand out.
Following are some tips for strong logo design:
- Use a unique image or graphic design rather than something generic.
- Keep it clean and clear with a good use of color and empty space.
- Use easy-to-read typography.
- Make sure your design represents your brand identity and appeals to your target audience.
- Be sure you’re committed to your logo design. If you change the logo, you’ll need to update the trademark application, which takes time and money.
- Look through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office trademark database to make sure your desired trademark or something close to it isn’t already in use. Their database includes word search (for your brand name) and word and/or design mark search.
Need to strengthen your logo? You can design a logo online for free with Adobe Express. Start at the beginning or tap any of the following templates to make them your own.
Understanding how to trademark a logo and actually going through the process is especially important as your business grows. The more successful you are, the more other companies will want to mimic you. Once you’ve gone through the process of trademarking your logo, you’ve got federal law on your side, so you can focus on other important company initiatives without worrying too much about trademark infringements.
This post was updated on July 19, 2023.