Trademark Laws for Company Logos

By Jennifer Williams

A trademark, such as a company's logo, is a design, phrase, or combination of the two that identifies your product to the buying public. Using your trademark in commerce gives you certain rights to use it exclusively, but additional protection is granted by law. Laws exist at the state, federal and international levels to help you protect your exclusive right to use your trademark.

A trademark, such as a company's logo, is a design, phrase, or combination of the two that identifies your product to the buying public. Using your trademark in commerce gives you certain rights to use it exclusively, but additional protection is granted by law. Laws exist at the state, federal and international levels to help you protect your exclusive right to use your trademark.

Common Law

Common law trademark rights to exclusive use of a logo are automatically created when you begin using it. These rights prevent anyone else from using the same logo in the same locations where you use it. Anyone using your logo after you establish common law rights to it is infringing on your trademark right, and you can sue for infringement. The court can grant you an injunction against further use of your mark by the infringing individual; it can also grant money damages. Common law rights are only valid within the area where you use your logo, which means others may use it anywhere else without infringing on your rights.

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Federal Law

Federal law protects trademarks under the Lahnam Act. The Act creates a registration system for published works, including company logos, through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Prior to registering your logo with the USPTO you must conduct a search of logos already registered to ensure yours is original and not so similar to another that it could create confusion between the two designs. Registration requirements include an application, fee and copies of your logo in a format approved by the office. Once accepted by the USPTO for registration, your rights date back to the date you submitted your application, and are enforceable against infringement within the United States.

State Law

States provide for registration of a company logo, usually through the secretary of state's office. Registration requires an application and fee, and copies of your logo in a state-approved format. Registering your logo within any state where you use it in commerce protects from infringement within those states. States differ somewhat as to the length of time state registration is valid, and what compensation a court may order should you successfully sue for infringement.

International Law

International trademark rights are governed by the Madrid Protocol, an international treaty with 88 signatory nations, as of February 2013. To request international registration via the Madrid Protocol, you must first register your logo with the USPTO. Once the USPTO grants registration, it transfers your application to the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization located in Geneva, Switzerland. Each signatory nation to the Madrid Protocol then decides whether to grant protection of your trademark rights within its borders. This process does not require any further application or fee other than that originally submitted to the USPTO. Protection within each Madrid Protocol jurisdiction is subject to the intellectual property laws of that country.

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How to Make a Logo a Registered Trademark

References

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How to Protect an Artwork Trademark

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.

How Trademarks Work

Any unique symbol, logo, word or phrase used to distinguish your business's services or products is a mark. Your trademark rights are created when you start using the mark in commerce, and include the right to exclusively use the mark and prevent others from using it. Trademark rights are valuable property rights that you can further protect by registering your mark with the state and federal government, as well as by diligently stopping others from infringing on your mark.

What Is a Trademark's Duration?

A trademark identifies a particular manufacturer of goods, using a particular phrase, design or symbol. Designs, words or symbols used to identify a provider of services are called service marks, although there is no practical legal difference between trademarks and service marks. The mark ensures consumers can easily identify a particular company as the source of a product, and encourages brand loyalty. It also distinguishes and sets apart a particular company’s goods and services from others. This encourages companies to maintain consistent quality standards in the goods and services they produce. In some cases, trademark protection extends beyond words or symbols, encompassing "trade dress." For example, if a fitness drink company packaged its drinks in unique, triangle-shaped bottles, that shape would be entitled to trademark protection.

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