Trademark Tip: Words vs. Logo

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is whether a business should file to protect its name or its logo.

A trademark application for a mark that is just wording is called a "standard character" mark. The mark is usually featured in all capital letters. In essence, a standard character registration covers all variations of the wording, no matter the form. So a registration for "XYZ" covers XYZ in any color, size, or font. It covers domain name uses too. It also covers the wording when it is part of a logo design.

A trademark registration for a logo or design covers only the exact design featured in the drawing of the trademark in the USPTO application/registration.

When a design is original and creative, it is certainly worth protecting. But unless the wording in the design is very weak, protecting the words is generally more important. The protection is stronger for the words since a "standard character" registration is more flexible. And more infringements relate to words than designs.

Ideally, brand owners should file two or three USPTO trademark applications for each name/logo combination:

  • Standard Character application for the wording alone
  • Logo design in black and white (covers all color variations)
  • Logo design in color

Generally, words are more important to protect than logos. Ideally, they should both be protected separately. Of course, every case is different, so it is important to determine what is right for your brand.

For further discussion of this issue, see: