Trademark Rights for a Similar Logo

By Shelly Morgan

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn't allow you to register a trademark if a similar trademark is already used to market the same good or service. The purpose of trademarks is to prevent confusion, and they play a key role in establishing specific brands. This is especially important in sectors of the market that are flooded with similar products.


A registered trademark gives you the right to exclude others from using the trademark for similar goods. If someone uses your registered trademark to sell similar goods or services, you can send him a cease and desist letter or sue him for infringement. Failure to assert your rights can result in you losing the trademark if it becomes generic. "Thermos" is an example of a registered trademark that became generic.

Similar Logos

Similar logos are permissible if used to sell very different types of products. For example, the apple logo is used to sell computers made by Apple Inc. and music made by Apple Corps, the famous UK-based music company founded by the Beatles. While these trademarked logos are similar, they attach to dissimilar products. Repeated lawsuits over this issue spanned nearly 20 years. The issue became more complicated when Apple Inc. began selling music online, which was similar to the products sold by Apple Corps. At that point, the parties agreed to settle.

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Distinctive Trademarks

According to Harvard Law School, a distinctive trademark is one that "bears no logical relationship to the underlying product." "Exxon," "Kodak," and "Apple" are good examples of distinctive trademarks. If your trademark is similar to a distinctive trademark, it is more likely to create confusion. Under these circumstances, it may be difficult to defend against a charge of infringement.

Preventing Confusion

The USPTO's Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure emphasizes that the standard for evaluating similar trademarks is whether they create a likelihood of confusion. For example, the TMAP states that "Veuve Clicquot" and "Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin" are likely to cause confusion when used to sell champagne, in part, because "Veuve" is considered very distinctive. Conversely, "Capital City Bank" and "Citibank" are not likely to cause confusion when used to sell banking and financial services.

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Can Products Be Similar Without Violating Patent Laws?


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Difference Between Product Design & Product Packaging in Trademark Law

Whether the subject is a unique product design or specific product packaging, protection of intellectual property rights may involve trademark law. The common trademark element of both product design and product packaging is the distinctive market-significant appearance of the product or package, rather than its functionality.

How to Trademark a Catchphrase

A catchphrase is a slogan or tagline that identifies a person, group or business. Often introduced into pop culture by a memorable line spoken in film or on television, a catchphrase is “catchy” because the association with a product, service or personality is indelible. It’s a unique signature – as long as no one else has used it previously. Although your catchphrase is protected as soon as you begin using it for business, registering offers additional protection.

Enforcing A Trademark

Trademark law grants a monopoly on the use of a word, phrase, symbol or design that distinctively identifies a product used in commerce. You can protect your trademark locally by using it in commerce before anyone else does. You can protect it nationally by registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is also possible to protect your trademark internationally. You are entitled to sue an infringing party and collect damages.

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