Protecting your intellectual property is a crucial step in running a business. Intellectual property like the logo, tag line, and other assets that help build your brand identity help customers remember your brand.
Copyright protection stops other people and businesses from using your logo without permission. You’ll also be protected from another business making financial gain from your logo.
Keep in mind that you can copyright any artistic piece if you are the original creator. Creating the logo is only the first step, you will need to complete the rest of the process for your logo to be protected.
What is copyright?
Copyright is the protection you receive when you create an original piece of work. A copyright is not limited to an individual author, but it can belong to a company or a group of people.
The United States Copyright Office states that “literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works” are explicitly protected. Once you create the original work, you are granted automatic copyright. No one else is allowed to use your unique design without your permission and knowledge.
Once you register your copyright, you can actually sue someone who steals your work. The proper term is copyright infringement, and you have a chance to make a financial gain if the lawsuit pans out. However, this protection is only granted if your copyright is registered.
Having registered copyright also means you have the ability to control how your work is used. You can transfer your copyright to someone else, or you can simply permit them to use your logo. Having copyright registration ultimately puts you in the driver’s seat.
Copyrighting logos is a different matter because there are strict rules. You need to prove the creative element in your logo is for you to copyright it. Your logo cannot be simple, but it must have an elevated design, color, or name.
In simplest terms, you need to make sure that it has a unique design if you want to copyright your logo.
A copyright must exist in a tangible medium whether it’s in the form of a book, a recording, or a program. For a business logo, it can be drawn and uploaded into the system. If it’s not in a tangible medium, it’s best to convert it in a way that it can be owned.
Why it’s important to copyright your work
You may be tempted to keep your unregistered copyright, but things will likely get tricky in the future if you keep it unregistered. Here are several reasons why it is essential to copyright your logo:
- Establish a public record: When you file your copyright with the U.S. Copyright office, your logo becomes a part of the public record. Having it become a part of the public record is beneficial because someone else cannot steal it.
You can use the public record as proof if someone tries to pass off your logo as theirs. They can be held liable for intellectual property theft, even if they claim they were not aware.
The court will hold them accountable because it is easy to find out whether a logo has been copyrighted or not. Filing your copyright saves you the headache of providing evidence in the case of a legal battle.
- You can receive higher damages in a lawsuit: Having registered copyright is not only beneficial for legal protection, but it also goes a long way in claiming for damages.
If you use common law protection, there is a cap on how much you can sue for. On the other hand, the damage for copyright infringement in the case of registered copyright means that the cap is much higher.
Ordinary statutory damages range from $750 to $30,000, but a willful infringement can earn you up to $300.000. Registering your copyright provides you with more legal protection, which leads to more money if you file a successful claim.
- Scare away potential offenders: Once you register your copyright, you can add the “©” to all your work. The symbol is well-known, and it shows that there are legal consequences for stealing the work. Having the mark is most likely going to stop anyone from trying to pass off your logo as their own.
- Protect your asset: It may not appear like so, but your logo is an asset. It is a part of intellectual property because it’s pretty valuable.
A creative logo grabs people’s attention and increases their curiosity. It tells potential clients a lot about who you are, without you having to say anything. It might be the reason why they order your goods or services.
Therefore, it is crucial to protect such a precious asset. You would not want another business ripping you off and stealing your clients.
You also don’t want your customers confused about your identity. Having a copyrighted logo shows clients that you are professional and efficient.
Easy steps to take to copyright a logo
Make sure that your logo is distinctive
When you apply for a copyright, your rights are only protected if the work is distinctive. The business logo should be as unique as possible.
You are advised to stay away from generic internet and social media designs. In most cases, these templates have been used before, and your application will most likely fail.
Logos are filed under artwork, so yours should be creative and original. It must be different from other logos so you can point out the similarities and sue if another company uses it.
The best way to ensure originality is to hire a graphic designer. It would be easier for you to prove authorship and increase the chances of you having an original logo.
The best way to protect yourself is by checking the public record to see if a similar logo has ever been produced. If you go to the U.S. Copyright Office, you will see a list of trademarked logos and typography.
Unfortunately, not everyone registers their copyright, so you may still be caught in the wrong. If you do your due diligence and check before you design a logo, you’ll know that you tried your best.
Once you have an original design, you should add the “©’’ to your design. According to copyright law, your design will be protected under common law once you add the symbol. The copyright symbol is a sign that you consider your work an original, and any individual/business who uses this will be held accountable.
If possible, take note of the date when you first publish the logo. You can add an “Established (insert year here),’’ or you can just add the year next to the “©’’ symbol.
Adding a date adds an extra layer of protection. It’s a way of certifying when your design was created so that it is easier to defend your legal rights. If you’re ever in a legal battle, you can use the date to prove that you used the logo first.
The next stage of ensuring that your work is distinctive is identifying yourself as the proper copyright. Put your name on a place where it can be clearly seen.
If you use a graphic designer, their name may appear, but you’ll need to file appropriate documentation to show that they have transferred the rights over to you. It’s up to you whether to use your legal name or your business’s name.
Register your logo with the Copyright Office
Registering your copyright online is the easiest and fastest method. It is convenient because the turnaround time is much shorter compared to using the traditional mail method. Online registration is also cheaper. The process may seem complex at first, but you will realize how easy it is once you give it a try.
Visit the official United States Copyright Office website. Once you are there, you will be required to create a user login and a password. Remember to use a strong password so information surrounding your intellectual property is well protected.
You should make sure that you have electronic copies of the logo you want to copyright. You’ll have to attach these copies to the application as well.
After creating your profile, the website will direct you to eCo Online Registration. This page will lead you to a form to complete. The form requires your personal details such as your name, business name, the creator’s name, and your copyright nature.
The office needs your personal information so that the logo is attributed to the right person. It’s essential to ensure everything is accurate before going further. Any mistakes made in this section can be costly to correct and can be difficult for your logo to be legally binding.
After adding your personal details, you need to upload a graphic file of your logo. You can use a scanned PDF version or a high-quality picture. Remember that the photo must be clear and bring out all the visual elements.
The image is the only way that the office gets an idea of what your logo looks like. You may not get the chance to provide further explanations, so make sure the picture is enough to demonstrate your high level of creativity.
After uploading your image, you’ll have to make the payment. The website is so efficient that it accepts debit cards, credit cards, and electronic checks. You are also free to create a deposit account with the U.S. Copyright Office.
The cost of registering your copyright often changes, so it’s difficult for us to give you a predetermined cost. The amount usually fluctuates between $35 and $85.
Once your payment goes through, you will receive a confirmation that your application has been submitted. You do not have to wait for confirmation or approval from the office, the design is officially copyrighted when you submit your application.
You can opt for registering your copyright through paper forms. You must download the Visual Art (VA) Form from the website. The VA form is most appropriate because it covers pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.
It’s up to you to fill in the form digitally or print and fill it out with neat handwriting. Once the form is filled out, you can mail it through a courier. You’ll need to send the hard copy to the Library of Congress, where it will be processed and approved.
Wait to receive your certificate of registration
Once your application goes through, you may receive proof of submission. Unfortunately, if you mail in hard-copy forms, you won’t receive any evidence that your application has been received.
The safest way to deliver the hard copy is to use certified mail and request a notification when your forms arrive. This way, you’ll know that your application was received, and it is getting processed. The online process is much easier because you receive a confirmation email once your application has been submitted.
Once the process is complete, you’ll have to wait a while before receiving your certificate. The process typically takes up to 6 months, and the online process takes less time than the mail-in process.
If you used the online process, you could quickly check in on the application’s status to see if your certificate is ready. Once you receive the certificate, you have registered ownership of your business logo. The certificate can be used as proof of copyright if you are ever asked for it.
Frequently Asked Questions about how to copyright a logo
What is the difference between copyright and trademark?
A copyright is the first step of protecting your intellectual property, but trademarks are the next step. A trademark is a life-long guarantee, while a copyright only lasts for a limited time.
Trademarks last if you hold the rights to them. The copyright only lasts up to 70 years plus the owner’s lifetime. After the copyright expires, it is open to the public and can be used by someone else.
A trademark is more suitable for a business, but it is riskier. By registering your trademark, you can protect your brand’s name and logo from being used for commercial use by any other manufacturer or seller.
Trademarks are a way of protecting your brand’s identity as it protects your name, logo, symbols, and slogans. However, trademark protection is not as comprehensive as logo protection.
Your trademark does not include the color and design of your logo because it doesn’t cover unlicensed licensing. Another company in a different sector can use a similar logo without being penalized.
Another difference is that a trademark is only valid once it is registered. You cannot claim a trademark in court if it is not officially registered. You are free to use the trademark, but you won’t stop someone else from using it. Another person in your industry can use the likeness for their own financial gain.
A trademark and a copyright are registered in different offices. They fall under different jurisdictions, so different offices manage them. You register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, and a trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Do I need both a copyright and a trademark?
A copyright is enough for a business logo. It provides sufficient protection against any infringement. Having a trademark is an excellent option because you have extra protection.
A trademark is a great way of stopping other companies from using your logo. A copyright will protect you from unlicensed copying, while a trademark will stop other businesses from using it.
How do I register both a copyright and a trademark?
Once you have registered your copyright, it is just as easy to register your trademark. The first step is to check if there are any similar trademarks. Clearing a brand involves scouring the Trademark Search system to check if there are any similar trademarks.
You can also search for similar design elements and typography. You wouldn’t want to attempt to clear someone’s work as your own or to file a trademark that is confusingly similar to another company.
You need to make sure that your trademark is not like other identical brands, including pending registrations. The site is easy to use, so you won’t get confused when looking around to clear your trademark.
You should take this part of the process seriously because someone can still sue you if they catch you trying to trademark their logo. If your brands are too similar, they can take legal action against you and claim severe damages.
You are encouraged to register your trademark online. The process is cheaper and easier for the office to process your application. You can opt between federal and state registration.
Federal registration means that you have priority over every other company in the country, while state registration gives you priority over businesses within the same jurisdiction. It would be easier for you to use your trademark before you file it. This way, it will be easier for you to prove that it is creative and distinct.
What do I do if someone else has already used my logo?
You can take legal action against someone who copies your logo. You can file a copyright infringement against them. A copyright is automatic so there won’t be as much pressure for you to provide proof. The proof that you need to provide is a source of the original logo and how you used it first.
If you want to receive compensation for a copyright infringement, you’ll have to prove that the other person copied your work and that they received financial gain from that. It is slightly difficult to win a case without a registered trademark, but it is possible. We encourage you to copyright your logo as soon as possible to avoid such situations.
You would think that a logo is nothing special but past cases show prominent companies suing other companies over logo infringement. Apple once sued a cafe in Germany after they used an apple as a part of their logo.
Apple is notorious for the way they sue brands that use an apple as a part of their logo. Louis Vuitton previously filed copyright infringement against a company that used part of their name to run a fried chicken restaurant. If the big businesses are particular about protecting their logos, it’s a sign that you should also be as serious.
Knowing how to copyright a logo is an essential skill to have. Logos represent your company and they are an effective way to build clientele.
A great logo is memorable, and it can turn your small business into an iconic giant. While a copyrighting logo may seem unnecessary now, it will save you a lot of time and effort in the future.
The process of copyrighting a logo is simple and straightforward. It shouldn’t take you more than 3 days to apply, and then a few more days or weeks to wait for the response. You will have your rights covered from the moment you submit the application, so there is nothing stopping you.
We hope that this guide has explained everything well and that your copyrighting journey is smooth sailing. If you have any other business queries, feel free to explore the rest of our site and read our other articles.