If a picture speaks a thousand words then a logo must speak a million. The importance of branding for your company is something you, as a business owner, already know. Your logo, your slogan, and even your company’s name all play into your brand and are a crucial part of your company’s identity.
But what if you saw another business using that identity? They have your company’s name, similar logo, or even use the same catchy slogan that your customers relate to your company. Now, your audience and clients will be confusing this other company with you, which could cause you to lose business.
Well, is your logo trademarked? If not, then you might have trouble shutting down this identity theft. Getting your logo trademarked will help keep you safe from a variety of different branding issues, but it can help you avoid legal issues as well. We’ve compiled a simple 5-step process that will not only show you how to get your logo trademarked, but will also help you see if trademarking is the right decision for your company.
Do your research
Researching your brand options before deciding on a company name, logo, or slogan is ideal and will increase the likelihood that your brand will be trademarked. To conduct your research, go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database to search for your company’s name, logo, and/or slogan. If you don’t find anything similar to what you’re hoping your company’s branding will be, then great! But your research isn’t over yet. You should continue to do research outside of the USPTO’s site to see if other companies are using similar names, logos, or slogans as what you’re looking for. If there is another company using the same brand identity as yours, they could have rights to that name, logo, and/or slogan, even if it’s not trademarked yet.
The USPTO will favor whichever company was in commerce first, even if this other company doesn’t have anything trademarked. And if you don’t do your research, you could be liable for damages if you accidentally infringe on another company’s trademarked (or not trademarked) brand. Even worse, if you are sued by another company for trademark violations and lose, you could have to change your company’s name which would be detrimental to the brand you’ve built—especially if you’ve been in business for a while. So we highly recommend doing research early on to cover your bases and protect your branding.
Contact an attorney
Contacting an attorney before you complete your branding process is optimal, because a trademark lawyer will help you determine what the USPTO may or may not approve. By performing a risk assessment beforehand, your attorney will help you apply for a trademark with confidence.
As a logo design company, our clients are often interested in the trademarking process. We recommend that our clients who want their logo trademarked work with an attorney throughout the logo design process to ensure our clients are not wasting money on a design that could be rejected by the USPTO. Having an attorney in the logo design process will help protect your logo from being deemed too similar to another company’s trademarked brand.
Submit an application
Your trademark attorney will help you submit your applications to the USTPO, which can get complicated as you do have to submit an application for each part of your brand you are hoping to trademark (company name, logo, or slogan). The application process does take 4-6 months on average which is why it could be hard to shut down a company who is infringing on your company name or logo if you don’t trademark it early on. It’s also important to note that capitalization and spacing of a company name does not matter.
You are also able to submit applications for branding that you intend to use. This is especially important for those companies that have not made a commerce sale yet — the USPTO will use your application filing date as your “first date of commerce.” So if you are building a brand but don’t have proof of commerce yet, submitting a trademark application is one way to protect your logo and company name.
What to do if you get rejected
If your trademark application is rejected, your attorney will be able to help you create a counter argument. You only have 30 days to challenge a rejection, which is another reason why we recommend hiring an attorney before applying so that you have their legal assistance on standby and can act quickly.
Trademark applications can be rejected for a number of reasons. Ultimately, the USPTO will compare your brand to other brands like it to see if there is a chance of confusing consumers. Industry and fame of a logo do matter. For example, there could never be an “Oreos Photography” trademarked, because Oreos are too famous on their own. The average consumer will associated Oreos with a chocolate cookie, not photography. However companies like “Smith Family Gardens” and “Smith Family Computers,” could coexist in the USPTO’s eyes because neither is a famous brand and they aren’t in similar industries.
After your logo is trademarked
Once your brand receives the trademark you applied for, it’s important to continue to protect your company’s identity. You will need to renew your trademarks every 5 years, but it is not as hard of a process as the initial trademarking is. You should continue to research your company name to be on the lookout for similar companies who may be crossing the trademark line. Because your brand is now protected by the US government, you will have the upperhand if you ever find a company who may be mimicking your branding success. And while you will be able to feel more comfortable with your logo trademarked, you should definitely continue to monitor and protect it.
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Hopefully, this 5-step process helped answer any questions you have about trademarking your brand! Again, here at Key Web Concepts, we do work with trademark lawyers for those of our clients who are interested in having their logo trademarked. Send us a message if we can help you today!