Why you should trademark your logo.

Why you should trademark your logo.

There you are. You’re ready to start your own thing, hang your shingle and be your own boss. You’ve finally got everything in place and you need to have a logo designed, put it on the website, business cards, etc. And get your logo trademarked.

Trademarked? Do you have any idea how much that would cost?

You probably went one of three ways: You could have gone to one of those free logo sites and download or created your own. Then, there are the logo contest sites and you could have spent a little more to get your logo. Or, you could have had a professional logo designer create something that was just for you.

Now, of course I am a professional graphic designer. A good portion of my design business is creating logos for all kinds of businesses big and small. In this article I am not trying to persuade you either way on that issue, but there are some things to consider before going those two earlier routes.

How does this relate to having my logo trademarked?

It’s interesting, a good portion of people will go to the trouble and expense of getting their logo professionally designed, but may or may not get it trademarked. With the growing surge of logos glutting the market in the various contest and stock sites out there, staking your claim without a trademark could be money wasted.

Imagine, you’ve got your new logo on everything–the website, the stationery, even those nifty coffee mugs and one day you get an e-mail. It warns you of a potential trademark infringement and since you have not filed yourself, may force you to have your logo redesigned, URL changed–or worse yet, rename your company. A whole lot of time and money totally wasted.

By going the free logo route, you may open yourself to this situation rather easily. The logos available on those sites don’t discriminate on who they go to, and often have business overlaps. If you try and apply for a trademark with one of those logos, it could be very evident, very soon. Not looking very cost effective now, are they?

The scenario with contest sites can often be the same case. Many of those logos are done without much in the way of client input. It has been found on occasion that artwork done for those logos have included clip art, which is most often not approved for logo design (hence the trademark issue). Nobody wants to part with their hard earned cash and find out it’s been a bad investment.

So, how do guarantee yourself some protection from potential copycats and even unintentional infringers? Hire yourself an experienced, professional logo designer and afterwards, apply for a trademark.

What exactly is the legal definition of a ‘trademark’?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines it as such:

Trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Since applying for a trademark often has the word ‘attorney’ attached to it, most people cringe and imagine parting with significant amounts of cash. Certainly working with a specialist in the field of trademark law can have its benefits in the long run. They will work directly with the USPTO and submit the appropriate forms and suggest suitable categories for your application. They can also provide the all-important trademark search to find out where your logo stands out there in the world. And as with any government application, they can help make sense of it all.

Of course, as you might expect this doesn’t come cheap. You could take the ‘free trademark search’ route and do a Google search, but that may or may not be that accurate.

That’s where this nifty new website known as Trademarkia comes in. They’ve taken a lot of the difficult and cumbersome parts of the whole trademark process and helped simplify it.

Launched in March of 2009, Trademarkia allows users to search all US trademarks, logos and slogans filed since the year 1870 for free. This data also allows them to provide logo design services, trademark filing, infringement monitoring, brand protection services and profile pages to their users.

Trademarkia adds nearly 6 million never before indexed pages of American industrial history to the web and in so doing, provides a search engine for all US trademarks, logos and slogans.

The integration of services and content enables existing brands to monitor marks and new brands to design and register new marks or select from among expired marks.

With all these resources and services now available, they’ve also brought down the price to something for the average entrepreneur. Your basic package starts at $159.00 + a filing fee. Now, you can do your own trademark search of both ‘live and dead’ trademarks in the largest database available on the web–for free. You can even purchase trademarks that have lapsed or been abandoned over the years.

In the event you do need an attorney, there are trademark and patent attorneys listed on the site as well, complete with their track records and case histories.

Soon, Trademarkia has plans for affiliate programs with related businesses and expansion into 55 other countries, besides the U.S. It certainly looks like a useful and viable concept for protecting your business.

In full disclosure, I was contacted by Trademarkia to take a look at their site and possibly write an article about their services. When I create a logo for a new client, I am often asked about trademarking the new logo. Most of the time, I can try and recommend a good trademark attorney.

To be quite honest, the online resource they’ve created opens up a whole new legal asset for future clients. And why not give it a try? In this new age of being smarter with your money, something like Trademarkia seems like money well spent.

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Update 03.28.11

Just this week, Trademarkia.com released a new service for getting your logo designed with plans starting under $200.00. According to the website, the designs would be created by a team of select freelance designers located near their headquarters in California. Now, I can understand that they are wanting to provide extra value to their trademark customers, but I cannot see how their customers will be getting a quality product for that kind of paltry sum.

In full disclosure, when I had interviewed the gentlemen at Trademarkia prior to writing this article, they had mentioned that a logo design model was in the planning stages. Initially, they were planning a model closer to the popular crowdsourcing sites, 99designs and CrowdSpring, but I couldn’t help but chime in my displeasure with such an idea. They had offered to include me in their roster of designers should the concept reach fruition, however I declined. Perhaps they got the message and changed their minds on the structure, but as a logo design professional I don’t think this is much better.

I still say that Trademarkia’s trademark service is a great resource, but I can’t recommend their logo design offerings.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think?