As such, they are extremely valuable company assets and should be protected from theft and damage, just as you protect your company equipment with locks and security systems. But the devices used to safeguard intellectual property are different than those for physical property. To protect your design you need to file a logo trademark registration.
Once you have gotten that great logo design, perhaps at my favorite crowdsource site 99designs, you will want to get your logo trademarked, but how? It is critical that you get it done correctly to ensure that your coverage is in place when an unscrupulous competitor tries to copy your brand look. Here are the steps you need to take, and all the info you need, to get your logo trademarked properly and affordably.
The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) officially defines a trademark as “a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the good of one party from those of others”. Thus your trademark logo design is the distinguishing element that can be included in the registration application, which would be governed and protected by both state and federal law.
The origin of trademarks for commercial goods goes back to the beginning of trading goods. The history of marks is nearly as old as the history of man and religion. Artifacts excavated from ancient Egypt are marked with various symbols, some of the first earliest logos! Potters marks appear in relics from the Greek and Roman period which identified the potter of a particular vessel.
The trademarking process for even just one logo usually takes six months or more and is very complicated. Let’s get started right away on these steps for your trademark registration:
1 – Be Sure Your Logo is Trademarkable
Your first step is to determine if your logo will pass the “unique” rule. In order for a logo to be trademarkable and registerable, it must be deemed unique and not generic, in common use or too confusingly similar to existing logos in the marketplace.
Use the US Patent Office trademark search online for research to be sure that there are not already similar logos registered by other firms. This can be a long and tiring process, and it will only be a part of your clearance search because not all trademarks are in the trademark electronic search system database. Instead, I recommend that you use a professional trademark service such as those at Legalzoom to get this research done properly, quickly and affordable
2- Claim Ownership of Your Logo
There are a few ways that you can claim legal ownership of your logo, however, they are not all equal in level of protection, nor enforceable in the case of trademark infringement lawsuits.
- Use Your Logo in Commercial Trade – This free way to establish your trademark rights is to simply start using it as part of your business operations such as for signs, business cards, product packaging and advertising. While this costs nothing it is the lowest level of protection because there is both no official start date use proof and your rights coverage is only in the local area that is your marketplace. So anyone outside of your area can use your name and logo with impunity.
- Register a Trademark for Your Logo – The next level of higher protection is to register a trademark for your logo with your Secretary of State. This protects your trademark rights within your state, expanding your protection coverage outside of your local area and gives you government proof of first date usage. This is vital evidence if you are challenged in a logo trademark lawsuit. Read my review of Legalzoom trademark registration services.
- File A Trademark Application – The most expensive and also greatest protection is to file a trademark application with the federal USPTO United States Patent and Trademark Office. You will need an attorney or specialized service to help you prepare this application because it must accurately, using specifically intellectual property law terminology, describe your logo design. Your application once submitted will take several months for processing and approval.
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3- Defend Your Logo Trademark
Trademark registration with the USPTO will give you the right to use your logo across America and to sue any parties that attempt to copy your designs. This theft of your intellectual property ownership is called trademark infringement.
You also have the right to stop the import of foreign goods with your logo brand from being brought into this country. This is a major concern in the fashion industry which struggles with counterfeit versions and fake knock-offs of designers goods.
As a registered trademark with the USPTO, you can extend your protection with trademark registration in other countries.
4- Monitor Your Logo Trademark
Once you have gone to the expense and effort to get your logo trademarked you will want to do a trademark watch, which is ongoing monitoring to check that no other firm is trying to use your logo designs. If you find that someone is infringing upon your logo trademark, hire an attorney to send a cease and desist letter to inform the user of your registration rights to that logo design.
Costs of Getting a Logo Trademarked
Dependent upon the level of protection that you desire your costs could be as follows:
- Trademark Search – Free to a few hundred dollars. Most trademark registration packages include the necessary search at no extra charge or you can do the search yourself online at the USPTO trademark database.
- Trademark Registration Application – Costs are determined by the “class” which are classifications for types of goods or services, from $225-400. Here’s good advice on how to choose your trademark class. The trademark cost for paper applications is $600 per class of goods or services.
- Trademark Registration Renewal – Every 10 years you must renew your trademark with the USPTO and the fees range from $300-400 for electronic or paper filing.
Trademarking a logo can be a good move for your business. And it is also a complex and highly technical process for which legal guidance is necessary. Start today to claim ownership of your brand by getting your logo trademarked.
United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO – https://www.uspto.gov/
Canadian Intellectual Property Office – http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/Home
Japan Patent Office – https://www.jpo.go.jp/
World Intellectual Property Organization – http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html
European Patent Office –https://www.epo.org/index.html
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