Trademark Registration 101: Should I Register the Trademark for My Business Name or Logo?

When registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), any of the available application forms for filing will require that you specify whether you are applying for the mark in a standard character format, also referred to as a word mark, or in a special form, referred to as a stylized mark or design mark. Assuming that your business name is eligible for trademark registration, you may wonder whether you should trademark the business name or the business’s logo first. You have the option to register (a) the business name only (b) the logo or other design only or (c) both.

What is a Word Mark?

A standard character, or word, mark is a trademark registration for words, letters, or numbers only or of a combination thereof. A word mark registration does not include any design elements, including font, font size, color, or placement. To see an example of a word mark registration, check out United States Registration No. 4474440. This is a standard character, or word mark, trademark for WALMART.

When applying for your trademark, if you select the standard character mark option in your trademark application, you will be required to input the words, letters, or numbers into the box that appears in the application. You can then choose the option to “Preview USPTO-Generated Image” to view the image of the standard character mark which the USPTO’s system will automatically generate for your application. Your word mark will appear in the USPTO’s standard character typeset.

If your business name is eligible for trademark registration, a word mark registration will provide the broadest form of protection. As the owner of the word mark, you can present the word for advertising or other use in whatever format you choose, including in particular font or color, because you own the underlying words (or combination of words, letters, or numbers).

What is a Special Form Trademark?

A special form trademark, or design mark, includes the stylized elements that you cannot claim on a word mark application. These stylized elements can include font, color, style, graphics (such as a logo or other graphical rendering), words, or any combination thereof. This type of trademark can include a logo without any words or a logo that incorporates words. For example, the Nike Swoosh design mark consists solely of the Nike Swoosh with no accompanying text, while Coca Cola’s stylized logo includes the words Coca Cola. Design marks are more limited in protection than word marks because they grant a trademark in the applied for logo as set forth in the application and subsequent registration. If the trademark owner later changes something about the registered design mark, they may need to file an entirely new trademark application (depending on the extent of the changes).

Best Strategies for Registration

If resources are limited and if your business name is eligible for trademark registration, it is generally advisable to proceed with registration of the word mark first since it offers the broadest form of protection. Then, as your business expands and grows, you can pursue the additional design mark filings and attempt to obtain trademark registrations for your logos. If you are able to pursue multiple filings initially, then it is prudent to protect both the word mark and the design marks.

If you need to talk with a trademark attorney about registering your trademark, please call Ritter Spencer Cheng’s trademark team at (214) 295-5074.