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How do I Copyright a Logo?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2016
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Though you may want to copyright a logo for a business or company, you cannot do so, but instead must protect that logo with a trademark or service mark. Copyright protection is reserved for artistic creations such as plays, photographs, paintings, and architecture and does not extend to more commercial applications. Even though a logo may be fairly artistic or creative in nature, you still cannot copyright a logo due to its usage as an emblem for a business. You can, however, fairly easily trademark or service mark a logo for a business, and then register that trademark with a government agency for further protection.

According to most recognized international copyright law, copyright protection is extended to works of art and similar creations at the moment in which it is created in a way that transcends a purely conceptual state. Even though you may have a logo that is quite creative, a logo is still intended to represent a business rather than serve as an artistic expression and therefore you cannot copyright a logo. You can gain similar protection for a company logo, however, through trademark or service mark protection and registration.

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A trademark is a type of protection provided for names, logos, slogans, and other images associated with a particular business or company. Trademarks, specifically, are used for companies that manufacture products for sale to other businesses or private customers. Companies that provide a service, such as a retail business, plumber, or accounting agency, can use a service mark to establish protection of a company logo similar to what would be achieved if you were able to copyright a logo.

To establish this sort of trademark protection, you can begin by indicating a trademark symbol “™” or service mark sign “SM” next to your logo on any official documents, packaging, or advertising materials. This functions as a readily visible indicator to other businesses that you have established a particular logo as your symbol and it cannot be used by them. You should usually do a trademark or service mark search for a logo before using it, however, since you cannot use a logo that is already protected by trademark.

Once you establish usage of your logo, you can then register your logo with an appropriate government agency. If you were able to copyright a logo you would need to contact a Copyright Office or company, but to trademark a logo you will typically have to contact an appropriate government agency. In the US, for example, this is handled by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Once you register your logo for trademark protection, you can then use the “®” symbol to indicate that your logo is a registered trademark.

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