How to Copyright a Logo by Myself

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Copyright a Logo by Myself

By Lee Hall, J.D.

Copyright law covers works of creative expression put into tangible form—both works on paper or electronic files. A copyright exists automatically. Unless a reproduction falls under the "fair use" doctrine, people must seek permission to use another party's copyrighted logo.

Artist sketching logos at desk

Note that copyright generally does not protect names, slogans, or titles. Content with the sufficient degree of authorship—such as an especially intricate or creative logo—may qualify. Many companies and creators register the copyright in their logos if the logos have the requisite degree of authorship for copyright. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office establishes a basis for enforcing the copyright in court and potentially receiving attorney's fees and statutory damages.

Moreover, the holder of a registered copyright may record this intellectual property with the U.S. Customs Office. This sets up a barrier against the imports of materials into the United States if they carry an infringing logo.

Filing a Copyright Registration Application

If you believe the authorship in your logo is significant and want the Copyright Act's protection, here's how to proceed:

  1. To apply, have your computer and your original design (printed and as an electronic file) ready. Have your debit or credit card available to pay the online fee.
  2. Go to the U.S. Copyright Office website. Select "Electronic Copyright Registration" to fill in the Form VA online for registration of a work of Visual Arts. Name the creator of the logo and include contact information for the owner. Many logos are works for hire. If yours is the work of a professional designer, be sure to accompany the submitted image of your logo with proof of transfer of ownership rights from the designer to you. Submit the form and pay online in accordance with the current fee schedule.
  3. Follow up by submitting your deposit and two hard copies of the pictorial work by mail.
  4. Wait for approval and your certificate of registration to arrive.

Note: Although you may handle the entire copyright (or trademark) registration process by regular mail (by printing the forms from the website and sending your applications materials to the designated postal address), an electronic registration application makes things faster and cheaper. Typically, a logo is small, and you can easily submit it online.

Other Potentially Applicable Intellectual Property Protection for a Logo

The registered copyright symbol serves as public notice to its owner's competitors in the marketplace. It can avert claims of "innocent infringement," which could otherwise mitigate the potential award of damages. That said, copyright is atypical in a logo.

Trademark, unlike copyright, does cover titles, slogans, and names of businesses. The point of a trademark is to identify a business in the marketplace. Businesses often protect a logo through registration of the mark as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office—regardless of whether it can receive copyright protection as well.

Note that trademark law focuses solely on preventing uses of identifying marks that would mislead customers or cause confusion in the logo owner's specific industry.

Understanding the ins and outs of this process and taking the required steps can help you ensure your creative work is secure. If your logo has the requisite artistic elements to qualify, copyright protection can serve as a valuable tool to protect your branding. Regardless of whether it qualifies for copyright, you can still protect the intellectual property in your logo by considering trademark registration.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.