One common question that haunts us trademark lawyers is, “Can I copyright my logo?”
You see, the real question, what you should be asking your lawyer, is, “Is my logo a trademark or copyright?”
A trademark is a device, like a name, symbol, or design, that is used by a business to indicate the source of its goods and services. It is a mark used in trade; a trademark! Trademarks are source or brand indicators — business names, logos, slogans, etc. A copyright is a bunch of rights that a person has when they create an original work of authorship (like a book, film, photo, sculpture, etc.). That bundle of rights includes the right to copy the work; a copyright! Copyrights protect works of creativity and artistic expression.
More often than not, a trademark registration with the USPTO is the best way to protect your logo. A typical company logo might include shapes or symbols and the company’s name in a stylized font. They don’t usually have enough creative elements to be protected by copyrights. If the logo is being used by the company as a brand indicator, then it is a trademark and can be protected by registration with the USPTO.
But sometimes, a logo may also be protectable by copyrights if it contains enough original creative expression. That’s right: a logo may be protectable by both trademarks AND copyrights!
Trademark registration with the USPTO gives you the exclusive right to use that trademark in connection with your goods and services. The general principle applied in trademark infringement is called “likelihood of confusion.” So your trademark rights will apply to any other trademarks that are confusingly similar to yours.
That means a competitor’s logo may be confusingly similar and constitute trademark infringement even if it is not identical to yours!
As we already covered, a copyright is the right to copy a work. The same “likelihood of confusion” standard does NOT apply to copyright infringement. So if you were to forego the trademark registration for your logo and rely on your copyrights instead, you may lose out on your rights against a competing business that uses a similar logo.
When you ask yourself (or your lawyer), “Should I trademark or copyright my logo?,” the ultimate question comes down to: what are you trying to protect?
If you want to protect a design like a logo that you are using in your business, then a trademark registration is the first line of defense.
If you want to protect an artistic work or creative expression, then a copyright would be appropriate.
Ready to get started? Contact us today to learn more about our trademark registration packages.