Consultant’s Corner: Registering a Logo
Question: What is the best way to register a company logo?
Generally, trademark protection is available for logos, business names, slogans, and some design elements. When a name, logo or design is being used primarily to distinguish your goods or services from the goods or services of competitors, in other words, its function is to make your goods distinctive, then it is generally appropriate to treat it as a trademark. However, in the case of a logo or design, if the logo or design is an artistic work and is purely decorative, then copyright protection is more appropriate.
Copyrights protect written works and works of art, such as songs, drawings, designs, and logos. Trademarks can be registered on a state or federal level; however, registering business names and trademarks at the state level gives only limited protection. Therefore, trademarks must be registered on the federal level for broad protection. While filing a trademark registration yourself may be the least expensive method, you may encounter name conflicts or other registration issues that require legal or other trademark professional input.
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Whether intellectual property protection for business and product names, logos and slogans is important to a business depends upon several factors including the business advantage of a new product or service; importance of the business, brand, or trade name to the marketing effort; and the size (city, state, regional, national) of your business market. While some protection exists without registration, such as a copyright, you need to register for protection of other intellectual properties and generally to defend your property rights in court, including copyrights. To help assess whether you want to file trademark or copyright registrations yourself, you can review the following U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Copyright Office, and state websites to locate useful trademark and copyright information, search tools, registration resources, and fees:
Federal trademarks and fees:
Copyrights and fees:
In addition to federal and state trademark searches through the above websites, you may need to conduct searches through other sources, such as the Internet, local Yellow Pages and for business names, county or state level business entity and fictitious name databases. While this can be a time consuming process, the first use of a name, logo or slogan for commercial purposes entitles the user to certain rights under common law that could affect your use of that name, logo or slogan. You may ultimately need the assistance of a local lawyer to determine the commercial availability of your logo and for help in conducting your search or clarification of similar or conflicting logos.
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