Your company’s logo may be the most important way you identify your business and brand and distinguish it from competitors. You may want to protect your logo by registering it as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
What can you register?
There are two ways you might register a logo: as a standard character mark or as a special form mark.
- A standard character mark protects an arrangement of letters or numbers, such as the words “Dr Pepper.” If you have a standard character mark, your words or letters are protected, no matter how you display them. A standard character mark could be a good choice if your logo consists only of your business name or slogan, without an accompanying drawing or design, because it gives you flexibility to display it in different styles, colors, or fonts in the future.
- A special form mark protects wording that is in a particular font, or design elements, or a combination of the two. To register a special form mark, you must submit a picture of the mark, and your trademark registration will only cover the exact mark you submit. You should register your logo as a special form mark if it includes symbols, particular fonts or colors, illustrations, or other design elements.
Distinctiveness and likelihood of confusion
The USPTO will not trademark a logo that is generic, or that is confusingly similar to a trademark that has been registered or is the subject of a pending application.
- The strongest trademarks, and the ones that are easiest to register and protect, are very distinctive. A logo that is too generic cannot be registered or protected at all. A highly distinctive logo might consist of original artwork created specifically for your business. A generic logo could be something like a letter of the alphabet or a set of initials.
- A trademark cannot create a “likelihood of confusion” with another registered trademark. A logo has a likelihood of confusion if it is similar to another trademark and it identifies the source of a related product or service. You can register similar logos if the products or services are unrelated.
Registering a logo
You can register a logo with the USPTO by using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) or other online trademark service.
- If your logo includes design elements, you will need to upload an image, using a .jpg file, of the logo as part of your trademark application.
- You can trademark your logo in either black and white or color. If you choose black and white, your trademark registration will cover any colors you may choose for your logo in the future, giving you flexibility to change colors and still retain your trademark protection. If you choose to register your logo in color, you will be protecting the logo with those particular colors.
- The trademark application also has a space for you to provide the “literal element”—the written words—of your logo. You should enter the words exactly as they appear on your logo, without adding or changing anything.
- If your mark is in color, you will need to identify the colors and their locations within the mark.
- The filing fee for a trademark application is $275–$325, but these fees can change, so check with the USPTO for the most current fees.
- Trademark applications take a minimum of several months to process.
If you are ready to protect your logo with a trademark, LegalZoom can help. We conduct a direct-hit search of the federal database, file your application with the USPTO and provide other helpful forms. Plus, the Complete Coverage package includes legal advice from an attorney.
Find out more about Trademarks