FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS What Are Word Marks, Design Marks, and Combined Marks?

What's the difference between word marks, design marks, and combined marks? And which should you get?

Watch the video and find out.


Word marks are basically just that: it is a trademark that contains nothing but words. It can be one word, two words, three words—as many words as you want. But these words would be written in plain characters and they protect the words. They don't protect how those words look like. They protect them in any font, in any size, in any color—that's what it is.

The design marks are just the opposite. They protect the looks. They protect those icons, the images. They don't protect anything other than that.

And combined marks are marks that have both the names, or the words, the phrases, and some images; or it could be words written in a particular font.

So what we often get asked about is should we file the combined mark or should we break it down into a word mark and a design mark. And really, the answer is: it depends. One of the things it depends on is the budget. Ideally, you do want to separate your brand into separate elements, and you want to protect those elements separately as separate trademarks, simply because it gives you a much stronger position in case somebody wants to infringe on some part of your branding, just one single element. Because if you dump all of your trademarkable elements into a single trademark application, what you're going to end up with is that everything is a single trademark. So if you have a tagline, the name, the logo, the icon, everything into one single application, then yeah, it will be a trademarkable brand because there is nothing quite like it out there, but if somebody was to only borrow your tagline, but not the name, not the logo, then they could probably get away with that—even if you have everything registered.

That's why it is always advisable to break them down. And for sure, don't mix the name with the tagline, or the logo with the tagline. Because you want to keep them separate.

So the only time when you would put everything together or at least something together is when you want to save on the budget, so you want to file something, get some protection, maybe to cover the 80/20 principle, right. Covering 80% of the risk by filing one single application, could be a good strategy, assuming that as the business grows you will still file those follow-up applications that would cover separately the name, separately the icon, separately the font of the name, maybe the tagline and whatever.

And the second reason why you would file a combined trademark would be if separate elements are problematic in terms of your registration. So what you could do as a strategy is to file that combined trademark, let it get trademarked, and then try to protect separate elements separately. And if they don't go through, then at least you have a fall-back registration for the combined mark.


Disclaimer: Please note that this post and this video are not and are not intended as legal advice. Your situation may be different from the facts assumed in this post or video. Your reading this post or watching this video does not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Trademark Factory International Inc., and you should not rely on this post or this video as the only source of information to make important decisions about your intellectual property.