A good logo is a very important part of establishing your company’s identity. Logos visually convey the nature of your brand and help customers recognize your business. Because a logo is so important, you may want to trademark it.
Trademarking your logo will secure the design against use by other companies and help prevent consumer confusion. When you apply to register a logo trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you’ll need to submit a specific kind of drawing depicting the logo.
Logos are graphics and symbols that promote a business, organization, or other entity. They can be abstract or representational, and often include a name in stylized text as part of the design. You can probably think of many famous logos, like Coca Cola’s red-and-white text and ribbon, the Nike “swoosh,” the McDonald’s Golden Arches, or the 5 Olympic rings, just to name a few.
These famous logos are trademarks of the entities they represent, which prevents other businesses and organizations from using identical or similar symbols to promote their goods and services. In order to federally trademark these symbols, those companies (and any others seeking similar protection for their own logos), must have submitted a trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including a clear drawing depicting the mark to register.
For more on trademarks in general, visit our trademark service page.
Logos versus marks
Per the USPTO, a “mark” is any word, phrase, symbol, design, or sound (or any combination of those components) that identifies a company’s goods or services. Trademarks are used for goods (technically, a mark used for services is not a trademark but a “service mark”). Trademarks can encompass logos, business names, slogans and more. All logos can be trademarks, but not all marks are logos.
Logo Trademark Application Drawings
The USPTO requires that trademark applications include a “drawing” – a depiction of the trademark to register. There are two types of drawings for the purposes of registering a trademark: standard character drawings and special form drawings.
Standard character drawings
Standard character drawings show a mark in text only (word mark), with no design, particular font style, size or color to speak of. These drawings are best for trademarking company names or slogans, granting broad protection no matter how they are stylized or depicted in the future.
Special form drawings
Special form drawings are also called “stylized marks” or “design marks,” and show a mark which includes stylization, designs, graphics, logos or colors. Marks in special form drawings are only protected for the depiction provided.
Why use a special form drawing instead of a standard character drawing?
If your logo or other mark will be presented in a way that creates a special impression that would be changed or lost in text alone, you’ll likely want to submit a special form drawing instead of a standard character drawing. For example, McDonald’s would have submitted its company name as a standard character drawing, but the individual design of the Golden Arches logo would need to be submitted separately as a special form drawing, as would any treatment combining the two elements.
A special form drawing is also required if you wish to include specific colors, fonts, characters, emoticons or other symbols that are not included in the USPTO’s standard trademark character set.
Submitting a Drawing With a Trademark Application
You can only include one trademark per application. This means that if the content you want trademarked includes several variations or aspects, you will need to file separate applications for each variation.
Here’s an example: Kyle wants to submit trademarks for his company Kyle’s Rain or Shine Designs. He’ll send the USPTO one application with a standard character drawing of “Kyle’s Rain or Shine Designs.” Separately, he’ll also send an application with a special form drawing showing his logo, a combination of a sunshine and rain graphic mark and the business name in hand-lettered typography.
If Kyle really wants to protect his trademark, he can even submit applications with special form drawings of each individual element, so he can mix them up however he sees fit while maintaining protection—assuming that his small business can afford the expense.
Drawing submission requirements
Special form marks should be submitted to the USPTO as a JPG no larger than 5 megabytes, and with no more than 256 characters in the file name (including the “.jpg” extension). There should be a minimal amount of white space around the design, and if it is submitted in color, it must be provided in an RGB format—CMYK color format is not permitted. In addition, you may not submit a zipped or compressed file.
While the USPTO prefers marks not be provided from a scanner, if it is unavoidable, scan a high-quality original, cropped and resized to minimize white space, at a resolution of 300-350 pixels per inch, and a range of 250-944 pixels for both height and width. Grayscale images should be scanned at 8 bits per sample pixel.
You have to prove your that your mark is already in use in commerce before the USPTO will approve your trademark application. As such, you’ll need to submit a specimen of it in use in your trademark application, along with your drawing. Specimens show how the trademark is used in connection with the goods or services your business provides. A specimen is not the same as a drawing—it is evidence of how the mark is being used in commerce.
As such, a specimen might be a photograph of the trademark on a label attached to your product’s packaging, or a brochure or advertisement showing a trademark connected to services. The specimen should illustrate how customers directly associate the mark with your company’s goods or services.