So you’ve finally nailed the perfect design, the perfect logo, the perfect identity then suddenly see everything you own being used by someone else.
Sucks right? Well, protecting your trademark design and logo is something you might want to do especially if you want the exclusivity of your design solely to your business.
Some people look at their logo and design as mere extensions of their business but for big successful companies, their trademark design and logo are very important because it’s a crucial part of their identity.
Imagine a brand like Toyota or Adidas would openly allow competitors to use their design, logo, and trademark – the integrity of the brand could be at stake.
Aside from calling a design truly your own, it’s also a way to protect your reputation.
How to protect your designs and logo
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers, and this is in no way a legal advice or a substitute for legal advice.
If you are dealing with legal issues with regards to your design business, it’s best to obtain proper legal counsel.
These are officially registered by the government and there is a formal application process that could take some time.
Trademarks can be used to protect an identifying feature that would make a product unique and distinct.
Trademarks do require the applicant to pay certain fees.
A trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or even expression that identifies the service or product and distinguishes it from the rest.
A trademark can be easily spotted with the “™” symbol which goes for the unregistered trademark.
A trademark is generally a name, phrase, word, logo, design, symbol, image, or maybe a combination of different elements.
If the design is an integral part of the business, it might be better to work out the trademark before going public.
These are automated paternity rights that are granted to artists, designers, architects, and others for the things they create.
Copyright is free but it is important to note that it mostly just covers artworks and other forms of artistic expressions.
There is technically no registration needed to have a copyright.
The copyright is a legal right that is created by the country’s law and grants the creator exclusive rights to the distribution, but usually for a limited time, with the intent to enable the creator to get compensation for what they own.
To approve ownership of the copyright, owners must show proof of paternity or “Proof of Creation.”
Owning drafts also help prove that the owner indeed owns the subject of the copyright.
Before releasing the design or logo to the public, it might be better to have proof of creation ready first.
This is information that is generally not known to the public.
Trade secrets often cover formulas, processes, practices, designs, patterns, instruments, commercial methods, or other compilation of information generally known or ascertainable by others.
Trade secrets generally give the business an economic advantage.
Basically, trade secrets are oftentimes intertwined with NDAs or Non-Disclosure Agreements and other ways to keep the subject of the trade secret private.
Although this might not be too useful for design or logos, it is still good to know for other business purposes.
Patents work by protecting commercial products.
Owners should expect registration fees applied and even special conditions are required.
Owners might need to patent a design in a number of different companies.
A patent is basically a set of exclusive rights that are granted by a sovereign state to a certain inventor or assignee for a set amount of time.
Patents are mostly available in a number of countries for any invention and its term mostly lasts a minimum of 20 years.
There are also a number of variations on what is truly patentable depending on the country.
The main procedure of granting patents to designs or logos can be quite hard since this would mean defining the design as something that is unused by others.
In most cases, in order to patent a design or logo, it must be not known to the public prior to registration.
Trade dress is meant to protect the “look” of a product.
This is a way to legally protect the art that refers to the certain characteristics of the product’s visual appearance or even its packaging. This can even cover the design of a specific building that would signify the source of the product to the consumers.
Trade dress protection is meant to protect consumers from appearance or packaging of products meant to look like other products.
Basically, this protects the consumer from buying another product which they might mistake for your product.
The trade dress can cover certain things like shape, color, and even the arrangement of materials.
These can also protect magazine covers, the appearance and decor of certain restaurant chains, and even the method of displaying wine bottles in a certain way at a wine shop.
For those lacking funds for a trade dress, it might be better to just apply for a proof of creation document which is generally free from charge.
This is a form of legal protection that helps protect the ornamental design of a certain functional item.
This can cover certain things like furniture, jewelry, beverage containers, and even computer icons.
In most countries, utility design is needed since artwork might not have a design patent.
In certain cases, the design must also not be known to the public before the registration.
Design patents protect certain ornament features of a certain functional item but not technically the utilitarian features.
The design patent protects the looks but not technically the function of it.
Industrial Design Right
This is another form of intellectual property that protects the visual design of objects that are not technically pure utilitarian.
An industrial design consists of the main creation of a shape, the composition or configuration of pattern or color, or even the combination of pattern and even color in 3D form which contains aesthetic values.
An industrial design can also be a 2D pattern that is used to produce a product, industrial commodity, or even a handicraft.
A certain industrial design can be looked at as intellectual property that is close to copyright.
Owners can request to hide the design for the right registration.
These can protect certain mechanical and technologic innovations.
As the name suggests, it is mostly functional and owners can apply for provisions either short term or non-provisional, or even long term patents.
The utility is a patentability requirement and the invention has to be useful in order to get this patent.
A utility patent generally covers the functionality of a certain invention for mechanisms or designs.
Utility patents are a good choice to protect a mechanism like a folding chair or other useful designs.
When do you not need a trademark for your design or logo?
The first thing that a business owner must do is to decide how important their design and logo is.
If the design and logo is something that makes the business just look presentable but isn’t really the core of the business, it might not be a good idea to go through all the hassle only to have a design that might not even stick.
Some businesses change their logos and designs all the time and depending on how integral they are to the business, there might not be a need to apply for a patent, copyright, or trademark.
These things take time and if they aren’t absolutely necessary, using the design or logo is perfectly fine.
Aside from how long it takes to patent, copyright, or trademark a certain design or logo, it can also be very expensive depending on the depth of the design or logo.
Shell, Caltex, McDonald’s, and other major companies trademark their logos due to them being the core identity of their business.
For companies that do not yet have a stellar logo or design, it might not be a good idea to get it patented, copyrighted, or trademarked.
The process can be very long and can also be a disadvantage for the business owner.
Let’s say a startup isn’t too sure with the design or logo and it might be subject to change later on, applying for a patent, copyright, or trademark would only cost more and even take up resources that could have been allocated to other things.
There are, however, instances wherein it might be better to copyright, patent, or trademark a design or logo right away.
When do you need a trademark for your design or logo
For those that have poured a lot of their thoughts and resources into the branding of their company, getting a patent, copyright, or trademark might be necessary.
If the business owner has already made the decision, the next question to ask is when to apply for the patents, etc.
First of all, the business owner must apply for at least a proof of creation which is free and does not take too long. This can be done with drafts or recordings of the process in making the design or logo. For those that are buying designs from others, getting consent is also a great way to own the proof of creation or at least copyrights of the design or logo.
The transferability of ownership can be done with a proper agreement and proof that the agreement did push through.
It is very important to have either recordings of the deal or at least a signed agreement by both parties.
To add to the formality, this can also be done with the help of a lawyer to notarize the deal.
For those that believe in the potential of the design and logo, going all the way before even going public can also benefit the brand or company later on. Since the business would own all the rights from the start, they have the power to call out those that copy the design.
Owning the design or logo also means that the business can lease the logo or design out (in special deals) or collaborate with others.
Benefits of trademarking a logo or design
Owning a design or logo provides more security and intensifies the ownership of the business.
The more ownership the business has over the design, they will be able to visually brand the business in a whole new way since the design can be used as a centerpiece in certain company art, promotional materials, and others.
The logo, on the other hand, can be very important especially if it stands out.
Having an iconic logo that a lot of people can easily recognize is actually something extremely hard to have in this day and age.
Most of the time, logos look similar to other logos.
Some people even sell the trademarks, copyrights, or patents to certain logos that they were able to create.
Benefits of patents, trademarks, and copyrights
The good thing about patents, trademarks, and copyrights is that they protect the owner and make sure that others won’t be able to steal any designs, logos, and others.
Some big businesses are even in the patent and trademark business meaning they patent and trademark thousands of different technologies or designs just in case they might need them later or if they decide to sell them to another business.
Protecting your business identity is very important and this is something that a lot of business owners regret not doing from the start.
Imagine coming up with something iconic only to have someone else claim that they made it later on (despite you actually making it).
Getting at least proof of creation can be very useful especially with logos. When it comes to designs, getting copyrights is also very important.
Own what you own 100% and don’t allow others to take your business identity away from you.