When to Hold On, and When to Logo

Logos can be an effective tool. Like word marks, logos can be used to help consumers draw a connection between goods/services and the source of those goods/services. With especially prominent logos, that connection can even be drawn without words (think of a particular swoosh for shoes or golden arches for burgers). With that potential in mind, clients will often come to us with requests to register logo marks. When those requests come in, we typically ask at least two questions:

  1. Does the logo contain words?

In general, word marks provide a broader scope of protection than logo marks. Whereas a logo mark typically provides protection only as it appears in the trademark registration, a word mark provides protection against marks containing the same or similar words in either word or logo form. With that in mind, if a logo contains words and the client is trying to decide between registering a logo mark or a word mark, we typically recommend a word mark, since it is a better bang for your buck. Assuming we still think a logo application is the right idea, we move on to the next question.

  • How will the logo be displayed?

As mentioned earlier, the logo submitted for registration is the one that will receive protection. That is why it is important to submit the logo as it will be displayed to the public. Tied up in this question is a series of related question:

  1. Will the logo be displayed in a variety of color combinations, or just one?
  2. Are there parts of the logo that will vary from time to time, or the logo always be presented in the same way?
  3. If there is variation, what parts of the logo will always be present?

The point of all these questions is to come out with what the lowest common denominator of a logo is. That lowest common denominator should be the logo submitted for registration. Regardless of the response in Question A, we also typically advise clients to include a black-and-white version of the logo in the application. Black-and-white signals that you are claiming the logo in any combination of colors, so unless certain exceptions apply, black-and-white is usually the right way to go.

All these analyses are fine and good, but how does it play out in practice? Consider the example of OG+S ‘s trademark application (that’s right, we are a trademark firm with our own trademark!). Looking at Question 1, we sometimes use words (the name of the firm) in our logo. The firm name is made up of a bunch of surnames (see prior blog post), which creates potential issues we preferred to avoid. We also don’t always use words, but we do always use the pictorial elements of the logo, so we decided to include just those elements in our application. The display of our logo also varies between green-on-white and white-on-green. To account for this variation in presentation, the logo in our application is black-and-white.

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