How to trademark a design: A Full Guide

Your brand’s visual identity is an extremely important part of your business. To protect it from legal infringements that can sully its reputation you should look into trademarking its design which includes its logo, labels, and packaging. Many want to know how to trademark a design so we made a comprehensive guide to help anyone struggling with navigating the world of trademarks!

Trademark, copyright, patent: understanding the difference when it comes to registering a design.

The first step to take when it comes to registering your design with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is to understand the distinctions between trademarks, copyrights, and design patents. Depending on the nature and use of your design, you may qualify for multiple forms of protection.

A trademark protects your right to use a design that serves as a distinctive identifier for your business's goods or services. This could include logos, labels, or product packaging — trade dress. By using the design in commerce, you gain trademark protection, reinforcing your brand's identity and preventing others from using similar designs in a confusing manner.

On the other hand, copyright protection applies to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium, such as paper, cloth, or digital formats. Whether it's a clothing design, logo, website layout, or blueprint, if you created the design, you automatically hold copyright protection. Unlike trademarks, copyright protection is not contingent upon commercial use but requires the design to be created or transferred with written authorization.

Meanwhile, a design patent protects the ornamental design elements of a functional object, such as a smartphone or lamp. Obtaining a design patent involves applying to the USPTO to protect the aesthetic features of your design. This form of protection is distinct from trademarks and copyrights, focusing specifically on the visual appearance of a functional object.

It's worth noting that a single design may be eligible for multiple forms of protection. For instance, the Coca-Cola Company has secured both design patents and trademarks for its iconic bottle design over the years. Similarly, your company logo could qualify for both copyright and trademark protection, underscoring the importance of understanding and leveraging various avenues to safeguard your intellectual property rights effectively.

Types of visual designs that can be trademarked.

If you decide that your use of visual designs requires commercial protection of trademarks, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of trademarks.

  • Logos
  • Designs for products
  • Designs for product labels or packaging that help people know where the product comes from (like the curvy Coca-Cola bottle)
  • Color combinations that help identify your product and make it different from others

You can check our full list of types of trademarks here

Making sure you have a strong logo design is crucial before you try to trademark it. Your logo can include your company name, logo, or both, but it needs to be unique and represent your brand well. If it looks too much like another trademark that's already registered, it might not get approved, and you won’t be able to trademark the image. You want your logo to stand out and be easily recognizable.

Here are some tips to design a trademark logo:

  1. Choose a unique image or graphic instead of something generic.
  2. Keep it simple and clear, using colors and space effectively.
  3. Use easy-to-read fonts and typography.
  4. Ensure your design reflects your brand identity and appeals to your target audience.
  5. Stick with your logo design once you've chosen it. Changing it means updating your trademark application, which can be time-consuming and costly.
  6. Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database to see if your desired trademark or something similar is already in use. You can search for both word trademarks (like your brand name) and design trademarks.

If you need to strengthen your logo, you can create one online for free using Adobe Express. Starting with a strong logo is essential as your business grows. The more successful you become, the more likely other companies will try to copy you. By trademarking your logo, you're protected by federal law, allowing you to focus on growing your business without worrying about trademark issues.

To register your design, you can use the online Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) from the USPTO or use an online trademark service. The process for registering a design trademark is similar to other types of trademarks, but there are some important things to remember:

  • Your trademark application needs to include a picture of your design.
  • You have to choose if you want to trademark your design in black and white or color. If you pick black and white, your design will be protected no matter what colors you use. But if your design depends on specific colors, you need to register it in color.
  • If your design has colors, your application must say which colors are used and where.
  • The fee for filing a trademark application is between $275 and $325, depending on the type of trademark you want. Make sure to check with the USPTO for the latest fees.
  • It usually takes a few months for the registration process to finish.

Still have questions? Don't worry! Get in touch with us! We’re a group of trademark attorneys ready to guide you through the registration process. From getting your brand registered to protecting it from copycats, we've got you covered. Let us handle the legal stuff while you focus on growing your business.

Reach out today for peace of mind and safeguard your brand legally! Or choose one of our packages that guarantees results for a guaranteed budget with a full refund if the trademark we deemed registrable gets rejected!

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I've had such a great experience with Andrei, with Trademark Factory®! That's the way to go. If you're in business, you should trademark your name. That's your brand, that's who you are. You don't want anybody to go around and use your name in their business. I had shopped around—and Trademark Factory®'s offer is a no-brainer.

Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas