If you want to have a company that truly leaves a lasting impression on your target audience, there are a few things you need to do. First, you have to get an idea that truly speaks to your public – a service or a product that will make an impact on their lives by making them more interesting or just easier. Once that’s out of the way, you will have to come up with a proper name for the business. That step is vital as the brand name is what will primarily identify your business and capture the attention of your target customer.
Okay, you have the idea, and now you’re ready with the name. That means it’s time to take the next step – coming up with a visual identity for the brand. While your logo is just one small part of your company’s branding, you have to know it’s one of the most vital methods for your company to be recognized and remembered. A good logo not only identifies your business but also helps convey the key ideas you have about it. Just think about the half-bitten Apple logo or the legendary Nike swoosh. You can recognize those logos in a second.
A well-designed logo can help you convey a message with a simple graphic. It will make your company recognizable and unique. With that said, creating the perfect logo isn’t easy at all. Most entrepreneurs find it very hard to find the ideal logo, and they end up hiring designers to do the job for them and craft the perfect branding.
So, after spending a ton of effort, time, and money on creating your branding and perfecting the logo, it makes sense to want to protect that work from being stolen.
This is where the topic of our article comes into play. Today, we will be discussing how to copyright a logo, why it’s essential to do so, and more details on the subject.
Let’s get started.
How Can You Protect Your Logo?
Along with your company’s name, the logo is the main visual message that you send to customers, and that makes your brand stand out from everyone else occupying the same market. New businesses get started every single day in the United States, and some of them won’t hesitate to steal your work and use it for their personal purposes. These types of companies will take a logo that’s not protected and copyright it, and then you’re the one that will have to do all the work again. Start-ups and small businesses typically use Google to look for logos and are mostly looking for a good image they can copy and use as one of their brand assets. The only way to protect against that is by trademarking and copyrighting a logo, both of which protect your work from being used or stolen by competitors or by other companies.
Once intellectual property protection is implemented, anyone that tries to use your logo without having your explicit permission can be sued for doing so. Having said that, before trying to copyright your logo, it’s a good idea to first learn what that entails and what it actually means. If we have to explain it in the simplest terms, it’s basically protecting the distribution, use, and rights of your logo. As per the Copyright Act of 1976, if you’re the owner of a copyright, you have the exclusive right to reproduce your work, distribute and display it in any way you like.
It’s vital to point out that trademark and copyright aren’t one and the same thing. Trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and offer longer-term protection over your intellectual property. If you want to learn about the differences between copyright and trademark in detail, you can check out this article of ours. For now, let’s put our focus on copyright and discuss the benefits of copyright.
Benefits You Get From Copyrighting Your Logo
Copyrighting a logo, much like getting a patent or a trademark, is a way of protecting your intellectual property as you will be recognized as its owner. Copyrights can apply to any kind of creative work if it’s original. By trademarking or copyrighting your logo or your brand name, you’re basically asking the government to ensure that no one else can use your ideas for their personal benefit. Along with that, having your logo copyrighted is a way to protect the reputation of your business.
Just consider the following example: You see the Nike logo on a low-quality sweatshirt that loses color and falls apart after three or four washes. If you didn’t or don’t know that this is not an authentic product, you will immediately feel disappointed with Nike and its lack of quality. Potentially that might make you opt to purchase the products of another brand in the future. The same thing might happen to you if a company worse than your own attempts to use your brand assets to promote its services or products.
It’s good to know that any original image that’s being drawn in the U.S. automatically gets copyrighted from the moment it’s finished. As per the law in the United States, a picture belongs to the person who drew it from the moment it was drawn, and it remains that way unless the rights get transferred to another person. Some artists can also state that their works are available to the public for use for free.
There’s a difference between getting a copyright for your logo automatically and getting it from the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering your brand image and getting ownership over it legally means that you can use that protection in court. By having legal copyright, you can
- Prevent the use of your brand’s visual assets by another company.
- Ensure your brand’s identity is used only by you and thus remains unique.
- Protect the reputation of your company from others who may try to destroy it in any way.
- Help ensure that no business in your niche uses your logo’s design as an “inspiration” for its logo.
How to Copyright a Logo: The Key Steps
Amongst the general public, a weird concept exists, and it states that it’s okay to use any content that’s easily found online and available to download. So, when entrepreneurs or young marketers are struggling to come up with an original logo idea, they assume they can jump on Google, find something that looks cool, and use it. This often leads to small businesses getting logos that are very similar to those of other brands.
Although there’s a copyright protection for every designed or drawn logo, it’s not usually as extensive as needed. So, officially registering your logo for copyrights will give you a lot more power in court, and it enables you to use any other brand that tries to use your imagery.
Now that we’ve extensively covered why you need to file for copyright, let’s get to the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Step 1: Check What Kind of Property Can Be Copyrighted
The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of property can be subjected to copyright. In the United States, you can register all kinds of works of art and logos for copyright. On the other hand, things like designs, symbols, and typographic variations cannot be copyrighted.
When you’re claiming ownership of your logo, it can get difficult to stop people from using it just by having logo copyright. Unless your design is incredibly new and 100% unique, you might have to combine copyright registration with trademark protection.
Step 2: Ensure Your Logo is Unique
Due to copyright limitations, you cannot use copyrights to protect names, existing works of other people, or even colors. So, if your logo is a name surrounded by a circle or simply underlined, you will find it tough to protect it via copyright. To qualify for copyright protection, you have to ensure your design is so unique and creative that it can fit under the “artwork” category. A basic logo simply won’t cut it.
Step 3: Don’t Use Logos or Ideas That Have Already Been Claimed
When creating your perfect logo, you will notice that a lot of industries and companies are using designs that are similar to others and are also trying to capture the attention of customers. But just because there are many pictures online doesn’t mean you can simply use a logo that looks too much like something that already exists.
If you’ve hired a professional logo designer, then that expert has to do his research and due diligence and ensure that you’re not filing to copyright a logo that already exists or that is similar to one which has already been claimed. On the other hand, if you’re doing your own design work, you’ll want to ensure the logo isn’t already registered elsewhere. You can do so by searching through the U.S. Copyright Office and checking if there are any issues with your design.
Step 4: File for Copyright
Both the Copyright Office and USPTO have online services available that allow you to copyright images and logos on your own. However, if you find the process to be daunting, you can get professional help from an intellectual property attorney who will be able to do proper research and ensure your logo can be copyrighted.
Along with that, attorneys also know how to make the process easier and smoother so that you can be as efficient as possible. A lawyer that has intellectual property knowledge and knows your business can also help you file a lawsuit in cases where someone is actively attempting to steal your work. Regardless if you choose to hire an attorney or not, copyrighting a logo is not all that complicated. All you have to do is register your ownership with the Office for United States Copyrighting.
That can be done either by submitting an online application or sending a document via mail. Usually, that will cost you anywhere from $35 to $85, and the price depends on whether you’re making the application on the website or by mail. It also depends on the category you select.
Here’s a short but comprehensive list of all the steps you need to take to copyright a logo:
- Fill out the application and submit it online or by mail. On the application, you will have to provide information such as your contact info, your name, and a high-resolution version of your logo.
- Pay the registration fee. Typically, it will cost around $39, and you can pay it with a check, deposit, or credit card.
- Wait for a response. If you fill out the application by mail, then it can take more than a year for the government to process your request; if you do it online, it can take up to eight months.
Remember that regardless of the method you choose, your copyright will be active from the moment you submit the form, not from the date of the approval. If someone violates your ownership rights between the time the form was sent and approved, you can still sue them for using your intellectual property.
What Steps to Take After Copyrighting Your Logo
After you’ve successfully registered for copyright, you can add the copyright symbol to your logo; it’s the letter C surrounded by a circle. If you’ve filed for a trademark, you can also add the ™ symbol. It’s important to note that if you’ve hired someone to design the logo, you need to be certain you have ownership over it. In the United States, typically, it’s the creator that owns the design, and he or she needs to transfer the rights to you.
You can also consider extending your protection and getting copyright in other locations, not only the U.S. Talk to your intellectual property attorney about what to do when you apply for trademarks or copyright in other locations around the world. It may be a good idea to consider obtaining trademark rights, especially if you want to have an international company. Additionally, it might benefit you because trademark protection lasts longer than copyright, and it’s good to have both for maximum safety.
Before You Leave
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the importance of copyrighting your logo and ensuring your brand assets are owned by you. After all, in today’s world, where companies get established every single day, managing to be and remain unique is a challenge that you have to deal with constantly. Along with that, many owners seem to believe that copyrighting their work is a long and challenging process, and so the steps we’ve laid out above are the clearest way we could think of to explain how to file for copyrights.
If you’ve found this article to be interesting and useful, head over to our blog, where you will find more of the same. Additionally, if you’re looking for some short-format tips and tricks, we’re active on all social media platforms and frequently post helpful videos. Hope to catch you there.