How to Protect an Artwork Trademark

by Angela Floyd
Brand Your Artwork

Brand Your Artwork

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You worked tirelessly to create your original artwork, now you must consider the business side of your art -- creating a brand. Brand your art with a trademark, a unique identifier that separates you and your artwork from other artists and their work. In the U.S., you get trademark rights by use in commerce, not registration. However, trademark registration has several legal advantages, including exclusive rights of use and the right to sue.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now

Step 1

Create a trademark. Under U.S. trademark law, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies a product and its source. Your artwork is the product and you, the artist, are the source. Your real name is probably not unique, but consider using your initials written in a particular design like a monogram, or create a pseudonym. Alternatively, create a logo or symbol to identify your art like the Nike swoosh identifies Nike products.

Step 2

Conduct a trademark search. To get rights in a mark, U.S. laws require you to actually use your mark in commerce and have it associated with you in consumers' minds. Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registered trademark database for availability. You do not want to use a mark and build a following only to discover your mark belongs to someone else, which could be legally, and therefore financially, disastrous. You could even be prevented from selling art you’ve already created that bears the trademark in question.

Step 3

Conduct a “use” search. Beyond a trademark search, a “use” search can be performed by a trademark search company for a higher fee. In the U.S., trademarks are based on commercial use, not registration. Accordingly, use of your trademark could violate another’s rights even if he never applied to register the trademark.

Step 4

Register your trademark. The USPTO recommends that you file your application electronically through its Trademark Electronic Application System. You can upload or generate an image of your mark through TEAS and pay your filing fee. The TEAS Plus application has a lower filing fee, but stricter requirements. If you do not have Internet access, you can access TEAS at any USPTO Resource Center. To obtain a paper application, call the USPTO Trademark Assistance Center.