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Registering a trademark: When should I protect my logo?

You see them everywhere, but you may not understand their significance. Those golden arches, the bright red bullseye, and the green mermaid are all trademarked logos of some of the world’s most successful companies. If your company uses a symbol, word, phrase or design that is unique and embodies all that you want your brand to represent, it may be appropriate for use as your corporate logo, and you might want to consider registering it as your corporate trademark.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is an image or graphic that embodies the “spirit” of a product or brand. When used consistently across the corporate entity, that image or graphic can come to represent the product or brand so that anyone who sees the trademark immediately thinks of the company. Trademarks can help to establish brand identity and to build loyalty in customers who like the products affiliated with that brand.

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The benefits of a trademark

A trademark can offer your business many benefits:

  • With a single image or graphic, the trademark conveys the entire spirit of the brand. Customers who equate that spirit with high quality may infer that all comparably trademarked products are of the same high quality and potentially purchase those instead of a competitor’s product.
  • Trademarks make brands and products easier for consumers to find. When a consumer recognizes the trademarked image, they may be more likely to understand the value of the attached product.
  • Trademarks can protect the brand (and its company) from being copied by competitors. Having a trademark indicates that the brand (and all products affiliated with it) belong to the company that registered it so competitors can’t duplicate the product or its trademark image to pirate away their customers.
  • Having a trademark also protects against inappropriate use of the image by competitors. When another company inappropriately uses a trademark for their purposes, the trademark owner can sue that company and make them stop using it. The mark owner may also be able to obtain any damages suffered due to the confusion caused by the copycat.

Your company can experience these benefits when you register your corporate logo or graphic as your corporate trademark.

Timing is important

If your company is new, you might benefit more from your trademark if you register it as soon as your company is ready to launch. Optimally, you have an advertising and marketing strategy ready to roll the day you open your doors, and your trademark can play a significant role in how quickly your target audience recognizes and responds to the value you offer. However, if you have been in business for a while, your new trademark can offer your existing customers even more opportunity to build their loyalty to your brand.

Not every trademark concept can be trademarked

The main reason why some images or graphics can’t be trademarked is that doing so would confuse the general public. Common names aren’t usually trademarkable, for example; Chanel tried to trademark the word “Jersey” (the name of one of its fragrances), but citizens of the Isle of Jersey objected. The Trademark Office will deny registration to brand concepts that look too familiar to existing trademarks. Ergo, as a consideration when developing a trademark image, ensure that the concept has a distinctive character that sets it apart from every other similar instance.

America takes its trademark authority seriously, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rules surrounding the registration and use of trademarks are rigorously enforced.

If you’re considering registering your proprietary image or graphic as your corporate trademark, you’ll appreciate the support and guidance you’ll receive from experienced trademark attorneys in our network. If you still have additional questions regarding trademarks, you can view our Trademark Help Articles or ask a lawyer now.

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