Copyright of a logo
When deciding to protect your logo or design, it can be a bit confusing trying to decide how to protect it. After all, your logo is basically the face of your product line or services, so it makes sense that you want to do the right thing when it comes to making sure you have the exclusive rights to it.
The question is, should you register your logo or register your logo as a trademark? The answer, surprisingly, can be both.
The US Copyright Office states that “copyright protection may be available for logo illustrations that contain sufficient authorship.” What does this mean exactly?
Each logo or design will vary from the next in terms of being eligible for copyright protection, of course, but the key to understanding is learning what is meant by “sufficient authorship.” Logos or designs that fall into either of the two categories are not eligible for copyright protection:
or “familiar symbols or designs”, for example, the peace sign, a single arrow, a Latin cross, and so on.
or “mere variations of typographic ornamentation, letters or colors”, for example, text in Times New Roman font, text that uses only upper and lower case letters, text in violet
An even easier way to think is to ask yourself a question about your logo: Was there any creativity involved in designing the logo? If you are using a symbol that you found in Microsoft Word or a clipart program, then no. If you are using a logo that you or someone else designed for you that contains a degree of creativity and / or uniqueness in some way or fashion, then yes.
Even if your logo qualifies for copyright protection, don’t assume it’s the same as trademark protection. Copyrights and trademarks are fraternal twins, obviously related, but nothing alike. Copyright protects the image itself, while the trademark protects the image as it is used in the market.
To protect your logo IN CONNECTION with your line of products and / or services, a registered trademark is the way to go. The purpose of having a trademark, whether for a name, logo or slogan, is to obtain exclusive rights to the mark within your particular industry. This ensures that there will be no customer confusion when it comes to your goods / services and another within your industry.
Filing a trademark for a logo is similar to filing a trademark for a name. A thorough investigation will likely be needed to ensure that the same or similar design has not been submitted. I know what you’re thinking: I know my logo is unique OR I paid to have my logo designed so I know no one else has it, we hear about it a lot. The only thing to always remember about trademarks is that the mark does not have to be exact to another. If there is a chance that the customer will get confused, it may be a problem.