Creating a logo is a great way to establish your company's identity. If you've designed one, you'll want to get it trademarked to protect your rights. It's critical to do it correctly, and it's not so easy.
You should either hire an attorney to handle the process for you or work with a specialized service. Also, you should be prepared for the the trademarking process to take a minimum of six months to complete.
Ensure Your Logo Is Available
Before taking any other steps in the process, you must show that the logo you've developed is actually available.
To be registerable, your design must be unique—not something generic, in common use, or too similar to other logos.
So start the trademark search process by searching the logo trademark database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Attorney's Office (USPTO), checking for similar logos and trademarks that are already registered by other companies.
Obtain Ownership of Your Logo
There several ways you can obtain legal rights to the logo your company has adopted, but they are not created equally. The easiest way to obtain rights is to just start using your logo.
This is the least expensive option and also the most dangerous one since you'll only own the rights in the geographic area where you're using your logo. Anyone can use it elsewhere and you won't be able to stop them.
You can also register a trademark for your logo with the Secretary of State in the state where you will be using the logo. Doing so protects your rights only within that state, so the logo can be used by others in other states.
The third and most expensive option is to file a trademark application with the USPTO. Again, you need an attorney or specialized service to help you prepare the application because it must accurately describe the logo in terms that are utilized by the USPTO.
It takes several months for a registered trademark application to be processed once it is submitted.
Secure the Trademark
Once your trademark is registered with the USPTO, you will own the rights to use it anywhere in the U.S. Registering the logo gives you the right to sue to enforce your ownership.
Registering the trademark also gives you the right to stop foreign goods with your logo from being imported from another country (which is a concern if there are counterfeit versions of your product).
Once your logo is registered with the USPTO and you have your trademark registration, you also can register it in other countries to protect your rights there.
Monitor Your Trademarked Logo's Use
Your work is not done once you've registered the trademark with the USPTO.
To protect your logo and make sure no one else is using it, your company will need to do a trademark watch. There are specialized attorneys and companies that handle this kind of ongoing intensive work. They constantly check to be sure no one else is using your logo or attempting to trademark logos that are too similar, and, if someone does, they send a cease and desist letter.
Trademarking a logo is essential for any business. But it also is a technical and complex process, for which nearly everyone needs legal assistance. Take the steps necessary to protect your company's logo today.