I am often faced with clients that need to know whether to trademark a logo or a brand name first.
It’s a question I get with some regularity, and I think it’s worth writing a quick post about it. To kick this off, there are two broad categories of trademarks: wordmarks and logos. (We’re going to ignore trade dress protection in this post.)
When you’re launching a business or starting down the path to developing a brand, you will often be faced with a restricted budget. Your marketing materials will have a trademark and a logo that you’d like to use for your brand, but you can’t afford to file applications to register them both.
I always advise my clients to focus on the wordmark first.
And here’s why. Companies will keep their brand names forever, but logos change. If you’re using your wordmark without an application for registration on file, you run the risk of another company starting to use your mark in another region of the country before you file for a trademark registration. This can restrict your rights and prevent you from using your brand name in the regions where that prior use occurred.
Wordmarks also provide broader protection. With a registered wordmark, you can use any kind of font, typesetting, sizing, etc. You can stylize the wording all you like as long as you are using the same wording that appears in your trademark application. It’s a great way to get your company started on the right foot for branding.
Logos, on the other hand, are much more likely to be distinctive from other logos that are registered or in use, so it is less likely your exact logo will be used incidentally by some other company or person before you can trademark your logo. In some situations, especially when you purchase a logo from a graphic artist without also ensuring you gain control of the copyright to the work, you might see your logo pop up in use somewhere else by some other company (for example, if your graphic artist sells the same logo to another client, which they can certainly do if they still own the copyright to that logo). If you use a graphic artist to develop your logo, make sure you own that copyright! I’ll probably make another post about this in the not-too-distant future, since I think it’s a very important point to make.
As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments or using my contact form.