What are trademark logos and which should you use?

While most companies know to trademark their brand names with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, not all brands can boast having iconic and instantly recognizable logos that immediately inform consumers about the company they represent.

Trademark Logos Protect Brands

When we think about trademark logos, what comes to mind? To be successful, trademark logos are generally simple and bold. Companies pay big bucks to have designers create logos that stand out and do not rely on intricate details to get their message across. Famous logos like the Nike “Swoosh”, Michael Jordan’s silhouette, or Apple’s apple with a bite in it are all single images that operate as logos that do not rely on specific colors, ornate details, or words to convey the company’s name.

But why would we want to register a trademark logo? While it is generally known that it is good practice to register the company name as a trademark, not all brand owners know that you can also register designs, sounds, and even colors as trademarks as well. This is because trademarks are intended to protect consumers and function as easy identifiers of the source or provider of particular goods or services. The idea is that a trademark allows a consumer to easily recognize the provider of the specific good or service so they can know what type of quality or standard of service to expect in connection with that particular brand.

See our post What's the Trademark Registration Process and What Does It Cost? for a full discussion of the trademark process and cost.

Advantages of Using Trademark Logos and Trademark Registration

As such, having instantly recognizable logos allow companies to brand their goods or services without having to rely on words that may take away from the aesthetic appeal of a product or from the marketing materials of the same. For instance, having the iconic apple with a bite taken out of it on the back of an iPhone is much more chic than having the actual word “Apple” on it. Logos can also be space-saving, which can save brands considerable money, when used on the mass production of goods. Imagine the costs associated with embroidering “Michael Jordan’s Air Jordans” on the tongue of every shoe instead of simply using Michael Jordan’s silhouette. Not only does the silhouette take much less space and cost less (in some cases), but the visual impact is much more appealing and stunning than simple words alone. These advantages justify the expense of seeking trademark protection.

Growing and Protecting Brands through Trademark Law

Thus, when it comes to both protecting and growing a brand, companies should look into not only trademarking their company’s name, but into registering logos as well. Before creating their logos, brand owners should consider consulting experienced trademark attorneys about their ideas for the brand. This is because attorneys can not only advise companies about what direction they may want to take but they may also be able to save companies considerable amounts of money by determining if any other similar logos already exist. By conducting preliminary trademark searches, experienced attorneys can advise clients on whether there are other logos that are already in use or registered that may block the registration of your logo. This way, companies do not end up investing heavily in a logo that will ultimately be blocked from registration. Thus, it is always advisable that brand owners consult attorneys early in the process while they are still creating their trademark logos.

Symbols to Use with Trademark Logos?

There are three symbols that can be used with trademarks. The first is the “TM” symbol that gives notice that a trademark is being claimed by the user.

The second is the “SM” symbol that gives notice that a special kind of trademark called a “service mark” is being claimed by the user. Trademarks protect source identifiers for products; service marks protect source identifiers for services. Somewhat confusingly, “trademark” refers broadly to anything that functions as a trademark and includes service marks, logos, and design marks as well as other source identifying features.

The third trademark symbol that can be used with trademark logos is the “circle r” or ® which gives notice of a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The ® symbol should not be used with marks that are not officially registered.