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So you’ve taken the time and put forth the effort to come up with a terrific logo for your ecommerce business. Rolling it out, you’re both proud and hopeful it will stand the test of time—maybe even being looked upon with the same timeless admiration afforded the McDonald’s and Coca-Cola logos.
All is going well, until one day you see some usurper has copied your logo. How can they get away with that? Well, this is just one of the reasons you should trademark your logo.
The Advantages of Trademarking
Anything that distinctly identifies your company’s goods can be trademarked. This includes names, words, symbols—and logos. The key advantage of a trademark is that it allows these items to be used to identify your business without worrying someone else will use those identifiers to deceive the public.
Simply using a logo in commerce implies a trademark. This is known as having a “common law” trademark. However, common law protection is rather limited in scope and efficacy. You’ll have to defend your usage by proving you were the first to introduce it to the public if another person decides they like your logo enough to appropriate it. This can be difficult to do without solid documentation.
Registering for trademark protection circumvents this possibility. It also ensures you don’t inadvertently impose upon someone else’s trademark.
How to Trademark Your Logo
The moment you finish working with your logo creator via Shopify or Hatchful and you’re satisfied this design is the one, do a trademark search with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While you don’t have to do this to apply for a trademark, an employee of the USPTO will do so before granting you the trademark. Your application will be denied if your logo is found to be too similar to one already registered.
Keep in mind logos, slogans, company names and domain names must all be trademarked separately. This holds even when your business name or slogan is part of your logo. Your trademark will come through in approximately 10 to 16 months if everything checks out. However, you’ll have protection going all the way back to the date you filed the application when it does come through.
Should You Go State or Federal?
Businesses conducting transactions in more than one state will only be adequately protected if they apply for a federal trademark. But federal registration can be overkill if yours is a brick-and-mortar business never likely to be seen outside of your state. Given ecommerce tends to transcend borders, you’ll be better served with federal registration.
Principal vs. Supplemental Registration
The USPTO has two trademark registries. To qualify for the Principal, Register your logo must go beyond merely describing what your company does or offers to be a unique symbol of your organization itself, like the Ford oval, or McDonald’s golden arches. If the material you’re trying to register doesn’t go that far, you can get protection by placing it on the Supplemental Register.
What About Copyright?
Logos can be copyrighted as well—assuming nobody else already holds one on the design. You must demonstrate it’s an original work of authorship, or it meets the rules for copyright in some other fashion. Ultimately, while doing both might seem like heavy-handedness, it’s a good idea just the same. After all, you don’t want your logo being used to represent something else without your permission.
So, should you trademark your logo?
Yes, and you should copyright it too if possible.
Lindsay Shearer is a Global SEO Expert, Author & Speaker. She travels all over the world coaching brands and businesses on SEO, Online Marketing, Venture Capital & Angel Investing and helping brands grow tremendously. You can check out more about her at https://lindsayshearer.com, and https://marketingfunnelbreakdown.com. Lindsay & Will Robins Co-host a Podcast called Marketing Funnel Breakdown that talks about everything SEO & Online Marketing.