When registering trademarks, new businesses often instinctively focus on their trademark logo. That may be because more work goes into creating a logo. You hire a graphic designer to make a logo, which often becomes the basis for the look and design of a website and other marketing tools. Trademark logos can often be very distinctive, too. While registration of a logo that incorporates a business name seems to be common sense, you can also register the name itself without a logo or design. This blog posts discusses the differences between registration of a name versus a trademark logo.
The Standard Character Mark
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office allows you to register a variety of different types of trademarks. Although you might think that most registered trademarks are logos, that is not the case. Most trademark registrations are just for a word/words that make up the trademark. These “word marks” are registered without a specific font or design (i.e. not as a logo). These are called “standard character” marks. Put simply, that means that registration is not limited to protecting the word/words in a particular font, size, style, or design.
As you have probably realized, this lack of limitations is very helpful and gives the owner of the registration much broader rights. Let’s say that I register the word GIRAFFE without limiting my protection to a particular font or used in a particular design. If someone else starts using that word for a related product or service, then they are infringing on my rights regardless of the font or design that they use with it. Registration of a standard character mark is an attractive option because of the flexibility that it provides.
Registering a Trademark Logo
The registration of a trademark logo (also known as a “design mark”) can also be an important part of protecting your brand. Many businesses use logos that do not incorporate any words. These can be registered by themselves, without any wording, in order to get the broad protections afforded by a trademark registration. For trademark logos that incorporate both word and design elements, registration of the logo protects the design elements. This is important because a registration for just the word portion would obviously not protect any designs. If your logo incorporates a very unique and distinctive design, then registering it may be a higher priority than in other cases.
Remember that you must use your mark consistently when registering a trademark logo. I recently discussed how making changes to trademarks can cause issues. This is especially true for design marks. You only receive protection for the mark that you registered, not an open-ended set of variations. While amendments can be made to your application or registration, they cannot represent material changes to the trademark. If you are considering making changes, it would be best to consult with a trademark attorney before doing so. An attorney can advise as to whether the Trademark Office would find your changes to be acceptable.
Should I Register My Trademark Logo or Business Name First?
There are several things that you should consider when deciding whether to apply to register your business name or trademark logo. For most businesses, registration of the name itself will be the priority. That is because of the additional flexibility afforded to standard character marks, as discussed above. In addition, many trademark logos are simply stylized versions of the name that just use a particular font, for example. For basic logos like this, you may not receive any additional benefits through registration of the logo versus just registering the name itself. If, on the other hand, your logo incorporates unique design elements, you may want to consider registration of the logo in addition to the name itself.
In most cases, since the name is the focus of the brand, it makes sense to start with registration of the name in standard characters. If that application for the name does not face any major issues upon review, you might then choose to file for the trademark logo. Many attorneys will have clients file for both the name and logo in separate applications at the same time. In my opinion, this is usually not the best method, since any rejection received for the name itself (e.g. likelihood of confusion) will probably also be used to reject the trademark logo, as well. Of course, each case has its own considerations, and you should speak with an attorney before making any decisions about filing.
Having Trouble Deciding Between Registering a Trademark Logo or Business Name?
If you are looking into trademark registration, but aren’t sure whether you should apply to register for a trademark logo or a word mark, please feel free to call me at (480) 360-3499, email me at email@example.com, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.