How to Protect an Artwork Trademark

By Angela Floyd

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.

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.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now

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.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now
How To Trademark Something


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How to Make a Logo a Registered Trademark

Trademarks and service marks identify your goods and services so consumers may distinguish your offerings from those of every other company. Typical marks include single words, phrases, symbols, designs or some combination of these elements. You do not have to register your mark to enjoy basic trademark protection. You have rights that stem from your actual use of the mark in the course of doing business. If you want additional legal remedies that enhance your abilities to sue infringers, you must register your trademark. You may register at the state level and, if you are involved in interstate commerce, on the federal level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

How Do I Know If I'm Violating a Trademark?

A trademark identifies and distinguishes the origin of a product or service in the marketplace. It uses either a word, phrase, design or any combination of these. It helps people to differentiate between products and services. Businesses have exclusive rights to use their marks in commerce, so long as they do not violate another party's mark.

Expiration of Trademark Registration & Abandonment

A trademark is a combination of words or symbols that identifies and distinguishes a product or service of an individual or company. Commercial use automatically creates common-law trademark rights that last as long as the mark remains in commercial use. You can also register and maintain a trademark with your state or with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration and maintenance is more expensive, but it provides a public record of the trademark claim and the ability to sue in federal court to protect your rights. You must periodically renew and monitor your claim to prevent expiration or abandonment.

File a Trademark Online. LegalZoom. Learn More. Trademarks

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