How is a trademark different from a Logo

While often used interchangeably, logos and trademarks are two different things and significantly differ from each other. A trademark can be several things, including (but not necessarily limited) a company logo. On the other hand, a logo is a visual representation of words and/or images that represent a brand’s identity while a trademark is a right that is conferred on a logo (or any other brand asset) that gives them exclusive use.

What is a logo?

A logo is usually an image or drawing that represents a company, typically adopted to identify its products or services. Logos help promote public identification and could be figurative and contain certain words or characters. Logos are commonly used in a company’s branding, advertisement campaigns, websites, and stationery.  While most companies have a logo, not all of them are necessarily registered trademarks.

Understanding Trademarks

A trademark is usually company specific or could be an identifier of its products and services. A unique brand name, phrase, motto, symbol or colour combination of a business can be trademarked. For instance, if a company has a trademark over its logo, it cannot be used by any other business (at least in the same class). This helps protect the company’s identity and ensures that others don’t use the company’s marks to sell goods and services. Most companies have a dedicated trademarks office set under the government for the registration of trademarks.

One can register a trademark only when it is intended to be used as a trademark - that is, to represent and act as the identifier of the source of the goods or services. If there is no intent of sale or service, then the particular mark cannot be registered.

Types of Trademarks

Trademarks are not restricted merely to logos. There are several things that can be trademarked.

  • Word Marks: This would contain words or numerals, or a combination of the two, and gives the owner of the mark the right of using the trademarked words (or numerals). The registration of word marks is done only in standard typeface. Stylised fonts or unique representations of the words would have to be registered separately as a device/figurative mark. Common examples of word marks include 3M, iPhone, Nike, Canon, etc.

  • Service Marks: These are also trademarks, except, it distinguishes the service of one company from another.

  • Device / figurative marks: This could be: a stylised representation of words, figures, certain graphic elements, or a combination thereof. The trademark application will contain a specimen copy and drawings of the mark. Common examples include the iconic logo of Apple, the stylised writing of Amazon, etc.

  • Three-dimensional marks: The packaging or the unique shape of the product can be trademarked in case it is unique and has a distinctive character. Common examples include the shape of the Coca-cola glass bottle and the shape of the Toblerone chocolate bars.

  • Colour Mark: Usually single colours are hard to trademark because it can lead to monopoly, nonetheless it’s still possible. However, brands can trademark a combination of colours. Common examples include Christian Louboutin’s red-soled shoes, 3M’s canary yellow post-its and John Deere’s green and yellow.

  • Sound marks: The 21st Century Fox theme music and the Yahoo Yodel are pretty famous, right? They are also registered trademarks. Sounds can also be registered on grounds of being distinctive and capable of brand recognition.

While a trademark registration is not mandatory, it would ensure exclusive use and claim of ownership. In case of infringement by a third party, the owner would be able to initiate an infringement suit and claim damages.  

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