Intellectual property (IP) rights aren’t always top of mind when you’re busy trying to run a business.
However, seeing as intellectual property violations (such as copyright infringements) can cost your business a fortune – even if it happens accidentally – it’s important to perform due diligence and learn the best practices for using third-party content in order to avoid copyright infringement.
In addition to respecting other people’s IP rights, it’s also important to protect your own business assets, such as your business logo, to prevent people from infringing on your creative property.
If you’re not sure whether or not this is even necessary for your business, think back to the famous copyright infringement case of Gucci vs. Guess where the former sued the latter over a diamond-patterned “G” logo both brands used on their clothing.
Even if your business isn’t as large as these two clothing empires and is something local and small like a landscaping company, your logo is important for establishing a unique and recognizable visual representation of your business and brand.
It is part of your business’s DNA, which is why registering a trademark and copyright for your logo is an important consideration.
Read the rest of this article to discover a step-by-step guide to copyright your logo, as well as the steps you should take if someone else uses your copyrighted logo without permission.
How to Copyright Your Logo
In the United States, registering the copyright and trademark of your brand’s logo is not necessary.
You own the copyright for any original work you put on paper or computer drive.
You also win a trademark the instant you use your business name and logo to market your business.
Having said that, you can still get important protection from taking the extra step of actually registering the copyright and trademark for your logo.
This will help your case if another company ends up using the same logo or one that is highly similar to yours.
Applying for registration means you are declaring exclusive rights to the logo for your line of business.
Here are the steps to take when applying for the copyright of your brand’s logo:
Step #1: For businesses located in the US, you can go to the official website: United States Copyright Office and e-file a copyright application.
Step #2: While on the US Copyright Office website, click on the button labeled “eCO Online Registration” and you will be presented with a Form CO.
Step #3: Fill the Form CO out and include your personal information, together with the name of the logo owner and creator. You will also have to provide a graphic representation of your brand logo.
Step #4: Next, upload your local file to the site and then pay the $35 registration fee. You can pay with your credit or debit card, or you can use an electronic check. You’ll then get confirmation pertaining to your copyright registration.
There will be a pending status for approval, but your copyright will be in effect from the moment you submit the application, not the date the copyright is approved.
The entire process takes about eight months for your online logo copyright application to be processed.
Important Note: Trademark Vs. Copyright
If you only copyright your logo without trademarking it, it won’t be fully protected against infringement.
You’ll only be securing your rights to the logo since you created it and it’s your intellectual property.
However, the trademark registration will protect your logo in case someone else tries to use it for their own purposes.
That’s why it’s important to do both copyright and trademark rights to protect your brand and make sure that no third party can use your logo without permission.
Follow These Steps to Trademark Your Logo:
Step #1: Conduct a thorough trademark search to make sure no one else in your state or country is already using a similar logo.
You can use a tool like Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) on the official website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Step #2: Once you have ascertained that no other companies are using a trademark logo similar to yours, you can then file a trademark application through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
Step #3: Once your application is submitted, you will receive confirmation via email. About three months after your submission, an attorney will review your application to determine if it meets all the legal requirements that are necessary for trademark approval.
The process typically takes about 6 to 9 months from initial filing to issuance of the trademark. But, with more complex cases, it can take up to three years to trademark your logo.
You can check on the progress of your application every few months through the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR).
The Cost of Trademarking a Logo
Registering for copyright or trademark of your logo will differ in price depending on the country you’re in.
In the US, the USPTO charges between $275 – $660, in addition to which you’ll have to pay legal fees.
Also, it makes a difference whether you are trademarking your logo with a State trademark or Federal level trademark.
Hiring a Third-Party to Register Your Logo Copyright and Trademark
You also have the option of hiring someone else to take care of the registration process for you.
The copyright and trademarking process can be lengthy and complicated at times. As you’ve seen from the steps outlined above, it requires tons of research and filling out lengthy forms either online or on paper.
Even with a step-by-step process to follow, it’s likely that you’ll make some mistakes along the way, which is why it’s worth considering an alternative approach for those who require additional support.
In fact, it may even be a good idea to consider hiring a third party to trademark your brand logo if you just don’t have the patience or the time to do it yourself.
Simply find a company to handle the entire process on your behalf. This way, your experience of copywriting your logo will be smooth and hassle-free.
The best part about getting someone else to do all the work is that not only is it totally transparent and legal, but you are not obligated to pay them until you’ve received the copyrights and/or trademarks you need.
How to Enforce Your Logo Copyright Rights
Once your logo copyright is registered, it’s up to you to enforce your copyright rights to make sure that you protect your brand’s logo against unauthorized use by other people.
Although the USPTO will ensure that no one else registers an identical or similar logo as yours, you alone hold the responsibility for protecting the rights to your business’s intellectual property if someone tries to adapt or copy it.
You’ll be surprised just how many businesses and individuals brazenly use other people’s intellectual property with no regard for copyright laws.
If you ever find yourself in such a situation where someone is infringing on your creative property, there are ways to protect yourself and enforce your trademark and copyright rights.
There are two legal routes open to you when taking legal action to protect your logo copyright against infringement:
1. Send a cease-and-desist letter: This is a letter that is typically sent to the offending party by your lawyer as the first step toward resolving an incident of trademark infringement. This can be helpful in bringing the issue to light and getting it resolved without the need for having to go all the way to court.
2. Opt for copyright infringement lawsuit: If the cease-and-desist letter doesn’t get them to stop, it’s time to file a lawsuit so the court can order them to stop.
However, keep in mind that taking this route doesn’t guarantee that the court will rule in your favor, as in the example of Apple Inc. vs Apple Corps.
Depending on the situation specifics, you might potentially be entitled to recover damages for the copyright or trademark infringement.
If you find working with a copyright lawyer expensive, they are possibilities of working with a pro bono lawyer. There are also lawyers that provide free and low-cost services to startups and investors.
Set Up a Trademark Watch
There are companies online that can help you set up and maintain a “trademark watch” so you’ll know as soon as anyone tries to use your logo.
It may also be a good idea to consider hiring a trademark attorney to advise you on how you can enforce your intellectual property rights if you find yourself facing copyright infringement.
Having a knowledgeable attorney on your site will also be beneficial if you need advice on how to proceed if someone else claims that your company is infringing on their intellectual or creative assets.
Logo Copyright and Trademark Rights FAQ
Listed below are some of the most commonly asked questions about logo copyright and trademark.
Q: Is a logo trademark enforceable anywhere in the world?
No. When you trademark your logo, you only get trademark protection in the country or state where you filed the application. However, trademarking your logo in one country certainly makes it easier to trademark the same logo in another country. But you do have to file for a separate trademark in each country where you want to have legal trademark protection.
Q: Who Owns the Logo Copyright?
When you create your own company logo, you own the copyright and trademark of the logo. When you commission someone else to design and create the logo for you, the trademark and copyright transfer to you upon purchase from the designer.
There is usually a Transfer Agreement that is signed by both parties. You then have the power, as the trademark owner, to decide where your logo appears, how it’s updated and amended, and who can license it for their own use.
Q: Do I Need to Work with a Trademark Lawyer?
There is no need to hire a trademark lawyer to complete the process. This is a simple DIY process designed to allow regular people to register their own trademarks.
However, if you have the budget, there may be benefits to working with a lawyer who is experienced in intellectual property as they can handle all the paperwork for you, saving you time and energy, and possibly the frustration of having to complete the lengthy process yourself.
Q: Why didn’t my logo qualify for trademark protection?
If your logo is not strong enough, the USPTO will reject it. A “strong” logo is one that is undeniably unique to its owner and creator.
For the most part, made-up names (e.g. Microsoft, Google, etc.) and symbols or images that aren’t typically associated with the particular product or service (e.g. Apple computers, White Castle hamburgers, etc.) stand a higher chance of being approved for trademark protection compared to generic brand names or logos that are simply icons or emojis, as an example.
Q. Where can I use my logo once it’s copyrighted and trademarked?
Once you have formally copyrighted and trademarked your logo, it becomes a part of your brand. Which means that you should try to use it in everything you do so that people remember who you are. Your blog, Youtube channel, on any podcast images you use, social media platforms, even if you build online courses, it makes sense to put your logo in the videos as a watermark. Anywhere your content appears, try your best to make your logo appear with it.
This article was mostly focused on how you can copyright your logo to protect yourself against other people or businesses that might seek to use it for their own purposes.
However, we also touched on trademarking your company logo, which offers a different kind of protection.
Whereas copyright is more focused on protecting literary and artistic works, a trademark will better protect things that define and identify your brand, such as your logo.
That’s why you stand to benefit from following the steps outlined in this article to register for both copyright and trademark protection for your logo.
Did this article answer your questions on how to copyright a logo and deal with violations on your intellectual and creative property? Share your thoughts in the comments below!