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Trademarks: Word Marks vs. Design Marks

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Trademarks: Word Marks vs. Design Marks


By DeAnn Flores Chase August 09, 2018    Category: Trademarks & Copyrights     Tags: design marks designmarks trademarks word marks wordmarks

Trademarks: Word Marks vs. Design Marks

As businesses grow, they often look to protect branding associated with their company by registering the trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).  Marks can take the form of the company name, its logo, or even a tagline used to market products or services. In many industries, companies elect to register marks used with a specific line of products. Trademarks are available for word and design marks. Word marks are generally used in connection with a brand’s name or tagline. On the other hand, design marks are used when registering a brand’s logo. It’s important to understand the differences between the two and what you’re asking for when you reach out to your business attorney for a trademark.

Word Marks

A word mark provides the broadest protection for a company, this type of mark is generally a company’s name or tagline. As an example, the words “Chase Law Group” can be registered as a word mark. With this type of trademark, the words are themselves are protected, which allows a company to change the font, color, size, etc. of a mark without fear of losing its registration over time.

Registration of a word mark generally provides the broadest protection and flexibility for a company’s trademark. Word marks allow businesses to use their trademarks in a variety of different settings, while maintaining the protection provided by registration from other businesses in their industry attempting to use the same or similar marks.

Design marks

Design marks protect the unique graphic elements that make your logo or branding specifically yours. If you want to protect a graphic element of the words of your logo, or if you have an image without words that you want to protect, then you would apply for a design mark. Having a design mark means that only that specific design is trademarked including the colors used. This mean that you’ll have to continue to use the same design in order to maintain the mark’s registration. A redesign or rebranding requires an additional trademark registration. For example, the Nike Swoosh was originally registered with a black swoosh, overtime Nike has had to register a number of marks to accommodate the different colors they’ve used with their brand.

Often, companies will register both a design and word mark, especially where the design mark is unique or innovative.  You can elect to register your marks simultaneously or to register only one type of mark initially and the other at a later time. For example, if you have a logo that you register a word and design mark for and then re-design the logo, you can file for another design mark reflecting your new branding.

The timing for applying for a trademark varies from business to business, marks can be registered once you use them to advertise your brand or even before they are used. In some cases, it may make sense to apply for the mark early, while you’re still developing the product, so you can start selling with a fully developed brand. In other instances, you may want to ensure that the branding is going to stick before investing the resources in filing for a trademark.

For help and advice reviewing your options, conducting a trademark search to ensure you can use the mark, handling communications with the USPTO, and advice on infringement actions, call the experienced business attorneys at Chase Law Group, P.C. at (310)545-7700.