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Should I Trademark My Logo?

Should I Trademark My Logo?

Many business owners contemplate whether they should trademark their logo. If you’ve been in business for a few years, or are in the planning stages of launching a new company, deciding to trademark your logo is an important consideration. You may have many questions on this topic, and to help you determine what’s best for your own company, let’s review the pros and cons of trademarking your business logo.

 

What is a Trademark?

Technically speaking, a trademark is a mark of trade. In order words, it’s word, slogan, image, logo, or any combination of those, used to legally connect products or services with the maker of those offerings. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll focus specifically on a logo trademark.

Think about McDonald’s double arches, Chanel’s overlapping C’s, and NBC’s peacock. These are examples of iconic logos which are highly recognizable and evoke certain feelings from customers. Seeing the McDonald’s logo may make you crave their salty fries; Chanel’s logo may make you dream of owning a luxury handbag; NBC’s logo may bring back memories of your favorite TV shows as a kid.

Logos give companies instant recognition, individuality, and marketing power. As a business owner, you’ve (hopefully) put a lot of time, effort, and money in creating the logo that best represents your brand. You have a lot invested in your company’s logo, and a trademark would provide protection.

 

How does a trademark protect your logo?

A logo trademark protects your business’s brand identity in the marketplace. Let’s say you own a clothing brand and your logo design is 3 intertwined hearts. If another clothing brand comes out with a logo that has 2 intertwined hearts, people could easily confuse their clothing with yours. Therefore, you’d lose money on sales, and your brand would suffer if their clothing were inferior in quality to yours.

If your logo is trademarked, it would be considered infringed upon when another company’s logo is similar enough to confuse consumers, and infringing companies would be required by law to stop using the similar trademark.

 

What happens if you don’t trademark your logo?

If you do not register your logo with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), you can still use it. This is because just using your logo in advertising creates a “common law” trademark. Common law trademarks can use the following symbols:

  • “TM” (trademark) if your business sells products and goods
  • “SM” (service mark) if your business offers services

These symbols can be placed next to your logo and are meant to inform other businesses that you are the owner of your logo. It is optional whether you choose to use these symbols based on space constraints. If your logo becomes a registered trademark, then you can use the circled R symbol (®) next to your logo.

It’s important to note that common law trademarks only offer limited protection. To protect your logo on the national level, it may be in your best interest to register for a federal trademark. In the case of a lawsuit, your registered trademark would provide documentation of when you started using your mark.

 

What are the benefits of trademarking your logo?

Below are a few of the benefits and protections you’ll have if you decide to register your logo for a trademark.

  • You’ll be granted official ownership of your logo’s trademark on a national level. If you have an online business or have plans to expand your company to other regions, this would be a valuable benefit.
  • Speaking of expansion plans, having your logo trademarked in the U.S. also qualifies you to obtain trademarks in other countries.
  • If another business copies your logo, or it is similar, and you are both offering related products or services, it would allow you to bring an infringement lawsuit in federal court.

 

What are the reasons to not register a trademark?

Depending on the current status of your business, and the future plans you have for your company, trademarking your logo may not be a priority. If any of the below circumstances apply to your business, then you may want to reconsider registering for a trademark.

  • You’re not 100% set on your logo. Businesses change logos over time for different reasons. As your business progresses and you begin to offer more services or products, you may want a new logo design that represents your new offerings. Or, maybe you have a logo you like, but don’t love and may decide to change it some point. Only the exact version of the logo that is registered is legally protected. If you don’t plan on continuing to use your logo for the lifespan of your business, then you might not want to register it.
  • Your logo is similar to one that already exists. It’s typical that many businesses gain inspiration from other companies. Maybe you designed your logo based on another logo you liked, and even though it’s different, there may still be some similarities and those comparisons may prevent your logo from being registered. As long as you stick to your geographic area, then common law would likely provide adequate protection.
  • You’re unsure how long you’ll be in business. If you are in the launching stage of your business and you’re not sure how long it will last, you may want to hold off on trademarking your logo. Applying for logo trademark registration takes on average about 10 months from filing to approval. The minimum application fee is about $325 if you prepare and submit the most basic application yourself. If you use a lawyer to do a trademark search first and/or file the application for you, adding on legal fees will make the trademark process an even more costly expense.

 

What is the process for trademarking your logo?

The first step is to conduct a trademark search to make sure that your logo is unique because if there are similar logos, your application will be denied and your filing fee will not be reimbursed. You can do your own search on USPTO’s online database, or you can hire an attorney or legal services company like LegalZoom, who can do a more comprehensive search on your behalf, as well as file your trademark application.

Once it’s established that your logo is eligible, you can fill out and file your trademark application. Within about 10 months, the USPTO will review and if appropriate, approve and issue your trademark application for federal registration. The good news is that your logo is protected starting on the date you file the application, not the date the USPTO officially issues your trademark.

If you are interested in trademarking your logo, company name, and domain name, each one must be trademarked on its own. Even if your business name is part of your logo, the two would still have to be registered separately.

 

8 Ways to Make Your Business Greener in the New Year

8 Ways to Make Your Business Greener in the New Year

As you develop your company’s plans and business goals for the new year, it is also good idea to think about how you can incorporate some small changes in your business to make it more sustainable. These environmentally-friendly adjustments can save your business money in the long run, while also boosting your employees’ productivity, health, and morale.

  1. Recycle

Recycling is so important, yet many of your employees and customers may not be fully aware of all that can be recycled, or possibly avoid it as out laziness or inconvenience. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 90% of office waste can be recycled. Promote recycling in your office, store, or place of business by putting recycling bins near printers, in the kitchen or break room, and alongside regular trash cans that customers may use, clearly marked for each type of recyclable including paper, plastic, glass, and metal. A full list of everything that can be recycled can be found here. Send out an email or post a sign in your office to educate your staff on recycling best practices. Side note: Your toner and ink cartridges can also be recycled. Office Depot even gives you rewards for bringing in your empty toner and ink cartridges! It is also a good idea to encourage employees how to reduce and reuse. Printing or jotting down notes using both sides of the paper and using refillable pens are a couple of ways this can be done.

 

  1. Go Paperless

While it’s not realistic to completely eliminate using paper in any business, there are many ways to lessen the use of it significantly. At meetings, display agendas on whiteboards instead of printing out a copy for each person. Same goes with PowerPoint presentations which can be displayed on screen, so handouts may not be necessary. Before you print or have something printed, think: Could this be done digitally?

 

  1. Use Thermoses, Reusable Plates, and Utensils

Think of all the cups of coffee or bottled water your staff drinks on a daily basis and all the waste that comes along with it. It all could be eliminated with reusable bottles and tumblers. For a small investment, why not gift your employees their own mug or thermos, maybe one that has your company logo printed on it? (This would be a great inclusion as part of an onboarding welcome bag!) If your office doesn’t already use a water cooler, consider investing in one. Paper plates and plastic utensils, which are used daily by employees, can easily be swapped out with reusable ones which would certainly cut down on even more waste, and not to mention, save your business lots of money over time.

 

  1. Turn Off Lights and Computers

Electronic devices consume a ton of energy, even when they’re not in use. Encourage employees to put computers in sleep mode when they’re out to lunch or in meetings, and completely turned off when they leave for the day. Same goes for lights, which should always be turned off if they are leaving their desks for more than a few minutes. Additionally, printers and photocopiers should always be shut down at night.

 

  1. Incorporate Green Initiatives with Your Customers

Did you know that Starbucks gives a discount to customers who bring their own mugs? Your business can follow Starbucks’ example by offering incentives and discounts for your own customers who use reusable bags (like Whole Foods), choose emailed receipts instead of paper ones, forgo using straws, and more. Many large corporations, such as Disney, American Airlines, and Hyatt – and of course, Starbucks – are all eliminating single-use straws at their establishments over the next year, and hopefully more will follow. Americans use millions of disposable straws each day, so this is a major step in the right direction to reduce plastic waste. Think about how you can include your customers in your company’s green efforts.

 

  1. Add Plants

Bring nature indoors by displaying plants around the office. Aesthetically, plants are pretty to look at and make the office setting feel warmer and less sterile. More importantly, plants produce more oxygen, absorb pollutants, and promote productivity. It’s a fact that plants in our working environment can improve our mental and physical health. Some of the best indoor plants for air-filtering include Boston Fern, English Ivy, and Golden Pothos. If you want more information on plants that help clean the air and how to care for them, this article is a great resource..

 

  1. Allow Telecommuting and Cut Back on Travel

Allowing employees to work from home, whether one day a week or one day a month, can significantly cut down on pollution, and increase your staff’s time availability. When employees do have to commute to the office, encourage carpooling, walking, biking or using public transportation. Re-think if business trips that require air travel are necessary. Nowadays, many conferences are live streamed, and client meetings can be just as effective via a video call, instead of meeting in-person.

 

  1. Serve Healthy Snacks

If you provide your staff with snacks and beverages, stock up on healthy choices. Eliminate sugary drinks and sodas, and encourage more intake from the office water cooler. To reduce waste and help improve eating habits opt to not offer processed snacks that come in a wrapper, such as chips and candy. Think about instead having a bowl filled with whatever fruits are in season, a prepared veggie and dip platter, and other healthy food options. Not to mention – consuming too much sugar drains energy, which can decrease workplace productivity.

 

BONUS TIP: Plan a company beach or park cleanup! There are many organizations that hold clean up events throughout the year that you can register with.

 

These small changes can have a significant impact on reducing your company’s carbon footprint, while also improving the health and morale of your employees. Think about adding initiatives to become more green to your business goals for the new year.