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Can I protect a logo or design?

One of the first sets businesses often take in getting started is coming up with a logo for their company. It is exciting to see the company start to come to life. After they so carefully design their logo, then they want to protect it.

If the startup is new to the branding world, the business may ask what they should do in an online forum, which advice is often wrong. To protect your logo, you need a trademark. No, you should not copyright or patent a logo design. Patents are for inventions and copyrights are for artistic works (books, paintings, movies...). Trademarks are for brands.

As soon as you have your logo, you may start using a small TM symbol next to your logo. The TM symbol indicates that the design belongs exclusively to your business and that you intend to register a trademark in the future. Using the TM gives you some common law protections for your logo. If you want more complete protection of your brand, you can file for a registered trademark. If/when you get a registered trademark, you can start putting an ® next to your logo. A registered trademark gives your logo design additional protections under the law. You can not use the ® symbol unless the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted you a registered trademark for your logo design.

Because of the cost to register a trademark, many small businesses don’t take the last step to formally register their logo unless they are growing or have money to spare, but it’s a good idea if you can afford it. If you have a logo that needs a trademark, start using the TM symbol and then consider whether your budget and future plans justify fully protecting your logo or brand.

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