Logos and other types of intellectual property that establish a business as a distinctive brand can be legally protected in the United States by means of a copyright or trademark registration. If the logo consists of a combination of images as well as words or text that uniquely identify a business, product or process, it may be better to maximize protection with both copyright and trademark registration.
The trademark and copyright registration processes can be accomplished on a do-it-yourself basis; however, retaining the services of an attorney or a law firm that specializes in intellectual property matters is highly recommended.
The Copyright Process
The first step is to establish ownership of the logo. If a graphic artist was hired to design the logo, it is important to keep a document that certifies when the logo was created, delivered and duly transferred. When a business owner decides to create the logo, it helps to write down and file a short, dated affidavit that explains the creative and design process.
To ensure that the logo is original, a search of the U.S. Copyright Office may be conducted online, requested from their staff or performed by a specialized private firm. The Copyright Office fee is $165 per hour for a minimum two-hour search; the fees charged by private search firms tend to be more reasonable.
Copyright applications can be filed directly on the website of the Copyright Office, and the $35 fee can be paid with a credit or debit card. Two copies of the logo must be mailed to the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. The registration process can take up to two months.
The Trademark Process
If the business logo includes distinctive names, words or slogans, registration in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is recommended. The process is similar to copyright registration, and it must begin with a search to ensure that the work is original.
Applications can be filed on the USPTO website, and the assorted fees can be paid online as well. Th application process entails providing descriptions of the services and goods that the business provides, and digital images of the logo can be submitted online. Once the registration is complete, the logo and the business it represents will enjoy legal protection against counterfeiting and unauthorized use.