The Nike swoosh, Mercedes’ three-point star, and McDonald’s golden arches are a big part of the respective company’s identities and customer perceptions. Your business logo is no exception. You likely invested a lot of work, creativity, and money to design a distinctive and memorable logo for your company, so you should certainly take steps to protect your newly created intellectual property and add that little ™ trademark superscript symbol next to it.
This Crazy Egg guide details step-by-step how to trademark a logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Why Trademarking a Logo Is Worth It
When you drink coffee from a Starbucks cup, you have very specific expectations for the beverage based on your previous experience with and perception of the Starbucks brand.
Naturally, Starbucks wants to protect its brand reputation by prohibiting anyone from using its logo, name, and brand to market its own products. The same logic applies to your business logo.
Trademarks protect names, words, symbols, colors, and sounds to distinguish a particular company’s products from another. When you trademark your logo, you get the right to exclude others from using a logo similar to yours that might confuse consumers.
When you register a trademark with the USPTO, you get the following rights and protections:
- The right to take action against alleged trademark infringement in federal court
- Public announcement of your trademark registration
- You own the trademark legally and hold sole rights to use it with the registered goods or products
- The right to register your trademarks in other countries
- The right to block foreign goods incorporation that infringes on your trademark
Simply put, trademarking a logo is a very public announcement of you owning a particular mark and having legal protection to exercise that ownership. No one can use your logo without your permission.
Moreover, consumers don’t overlook this detail either. They recognize a trademark symbol and respect a business owner’s pride in protecting their small business and its reputation.
The Investment Needed to Trademark a Logo
Depending on the filing class, the USPTO charges $250-$350 plus legal fees to trademark a logo. You can register a trademark with your state for just $50-$150, but federal registration offers more comprehensive legal protection, which, considering the importance of a logo, is an investment worth making.
The USPTO offers different fee forms, each with different pricing. If you file online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), you can choose from two options:
- TEAS Plus for $250
- TEAS Standard for $350
Note: You may have to pay additional fees based on your intent, which can add $100-$125 per class.
Have you already filed a trademark for your logo? Excellent! Next, you have to maintain your trademark. The cost of maintaining your trademark according to the USPTO are as follows:
- Filing Declaration of Use after 5 Years (Section 8 declaration): $225 per class (if filed before the grace period)
- Filing Declaration of Use after 5 years (Section 8 declaration) combined with Declaration of Incontestability (Section 15 declaration): $425 per class (if filed before the grace period)
- Filing Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal every 10 years (Combined Section 8 declaration and Section 9 renewal): $525 per class (if filed before the grace period)
- Filing Declaration of Incontestability (Section 15 declaration): $200 per class
If you do not want to register for a trademark on your own, many businesses hire an online legal service or a lawyer to get their logo trademarked. If that’s the case, you’ll find yourself paying between $500-$2,000 to prepare a federal trademark application.
6 Steps to Trademark a Logo
Let’s go through all of the steps involved in trademarking a logo and protecting your intellectual rights.
Step #1 — Make Sure Your Logo Meets USPTO Guidelines
Any logo submitted for trademark must not already be in use by a previous applicant. It should also not be too similar to an existing trademark.
To avoid rejection, you should check the USPTO’s online database for existing trademarks, Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), to cross-check whether your logo is truly unique.
According to the USPTO, the “likelihood of confusion” with another company is one of the most common reasons for rejecting a trademark logo petition. Here is a statement from the USPTO:
“One of the most common reasons for refusing registration is that a ‘likelihood of confusion’ exists between the mark in the application and a previously registered mark or a pending application with an earlier filing date owned by another party. Likelihood of confusion exists between trademarks when the marks are so similar, and the goods and/or services for which they are used are so related that consumers would mistakenly believe they come from the same source.“
The USPTO denies any application with offensive content. This means no obscenities or crude drawings.
The agency also refuses any petition it finds misleading. For example, if the USPTO thinks a logo doesn’t really represent the type of product it claims to sell—or it suggests another kind of item altogether—it’ll reject that application.
This makes sense considering the USPTO is there to protect the business owner’s rights and ensure the best possible consumer experience.
Step #2 — Prepare Your Trademark Application
The USPTO’s Trademark Next Generation ID Manual allows people to search for acceptable identifications of their goods and services. Follow the manual to prepare your written description of your logo and the goods and services to which it’ll be applied. Additionally, you’ll have to create a drawing of your logo using the USPTO’s specified size and format.
- An application can contain claims for registration of the logo in one or more classifications of goods or services, with all details about the classification system being on the USPTO trademark website. You can also submit separate applications for each class. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay fees for every class of goods or services.
- You have to submit a “specimen” showing your logo in actual use on the described goods or services. For instance, you could include a photograph of the logo on a product or a screenshot of the logo when advertising your services.
- If you haven’t used your logo on goods in commerce, you can still file an Intent to Use application. This will certify that you have an “intent to use” the logo as described, giving you the option of three or more years to get your products or services into the market with the logo before your application gets rejected for non-use. You’ll have to pay additional fees for finalizing an ITU application.
Different rules apply for applications for U.S. registration of brands already registered in other countries. In that case, it is best to hire a trademark attorney to ensure your application doesn’t get rejected.
Step #3 — File an Application With the USPTO
You can begin using your logo once you have the clearance for use on the federal level. Alternatively, you can register it in one or more states to gain limited rights.
But if you want more extensive rights nationwide, you’ll have to apply with the USPTO. There are different ways you can go about this:
- Use the TEAS to draft and submit your application online. This method allows you to check your application for completeness before submitting it and provides an email summary of the application with a serial number. You can use the serial number to track your application progress.
- Send your application by mail to the Commissioner of Trademarks, P.O. Box 1451, Alexandria, VA 22313-1451. You’ll receive a filing receipt and serial number two to three weeks after you send it in.
- Deliver your application by hand or courier to the Trademark Assistance Center, Madison East, Concourse Level Room C 55, at 600 Dulany Street in Alexandria. You’ll get a time-stamped receipt and an application serial number.
Step #4 — Wait for the USPTO’s Reply
At this stage, you’ve filed a trademark application and have received confirmation of receipt. The next step is to follow up on your application on the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) database.
Generally, the USPTO takes around 3-4 months to reply, but it can be longer. The entire trademarking application process takes six months to one year, and in some instances, even longer.
Are you wondering why it takes so long?
The USPTO manually reviews your application to check whether you meet the basic filing requirements, after which it forwards your application to an examining attorney. If there’s anything wrong with your application, the agency will notify you.
The examining attorney carefully scrutinizes every element of your application to determine whether you meet all the legal and procedural requirements of a viable petition. They double-check for redundant trademarks and whether you’ve classified your product properly and submitted an appropriate logo specimen.
The attorney also checks whether you’ve included the proper fees.
As you may have guessed, the examining attorney is the ultimate authority who decides whether your logo will be registered. If there are minor issues with your application, the attorney will contact you via email or phone. However, if the concerns are more prominent, you’ll receive a letter called an Office Action that outlines the reasons for the denial.
Step #5 — Correct Application Errors
The USPTO lets you correct any application problems. But if your petition was denied because of a serious flaw in your logo or similarity to an existing trademark or application, you’ll have to file a new application.
If you receive an Office Action, you’ll have six months from the date of mailing to submit the requested corrections. Otherwise, the USPTO will mark your application as abandoned.
If your submission still doesn’t satisfy the examining attorney, you’ll be issued a final refusal of your application. You can appeal this denial to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) if you want, but you’ll have to pay additional fees for this.
If the examining attorney approves your application, your logo will be published in the Official Gazette, indicating your logo is a soon-to-be registered trademark. If anyone believes your registration may harm their business, they’ll have 30 days to file a complaint with the USPTO.
If all goes well and no one files any grievances, your logo will officially become a federally registered trademark, giving you all the rights and protections we discussed before.
Step #6 — Maintain Your Trademark Rights
After registration comes maintenance.
To maintain your protected status, you’ll have to submit a Trademark Declaration of Continued Use and a Trademark Renewal to the USPTO every five years. If you fail to file this renewal, you’ll still have a six-month grace period to file. But if you fail to submit these forms entirely, the USPTO will consider your logo abandoned, meaning you’ll lose all your legal intellectual property protections.
As long as the logo remains in commercial use, you can renew your trademark as many times as you want. But if your registration renewal fails, you might have to repeat the entire registration process.
You can enforce your trademark protections against any infringement once the USPTO registers your logo.
Companies engage in what’s known as a trademark watch to ensure no other business misuses their logo or uses it without their permission. They guard against the misuse of their logos and to potential applications to the USPTO for compatible logos.
Keeping an eye out for trademark infringement and asserting your rights under trademark protection in case you do find an infringement is always a good idea.
With a logo trademark in place, you can focus on other aspects of running a business. Here are a few Crazy Egg guides to help you meet your business goals: