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1. What is a copyright?

How to copyright a logo for your online business [2024]

In the fast-paced digital marketplace, protecting your brand’s identity is more critical than ever. A logo can distinguish your online business from others, and copyrighting it is essential to maintain exclusivity. Grasping the ropes of copyrighting a logo, however, can be daunting.

This article will strip away the complexity and guide you through the vital steps of copyrighting your logo, starting from creation to securing your intellectual property rights.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Understanding the distinction between copyright and trademark registration helps you choose the best protection method for your logo. You'll learn the essentials of both and when they should be utilized.

  • The symbol for copyright ("©") and trademark (™, ®) are crucial visual indicators of your rights over your creative work.

  • Securing your company's logo through copyright registration is a strategic business move that can protect its unique identity and enhance brand value.

  • Copyrighting a logo involves creating an original logo, verifying copyright eligibility, preparing your application, and navigating the post-submission period.

  • Upon safeguarding your copyright, leverage Gelato’s offerings for printing your copyrighted logo on high-quality, on-demand products as well as shipping them across the globe, effectively protecting and monetizing your brand's identity.

What is a copyright?

Stacked copyright books

Copyright is a legal concept that provides creators and artists exclusive rights over their work. Specifically, it protects original forms of expression such as music, literature, and, yes, logos. It affords control against unauthorized use, allowing the holder the privilege to sell, distribute, display, and create derivatives of the work.

Copyright vs. trademark registration

When it comes to protecting your brand and its unique identifiers like logos, you face decisions regarding whether to pursue copyright registration, federal trademark registration, or both. Understanding the differences between these two forms of intellectual property protection is fundamental to making informed decisions about how best to safeguard your brand.

Understanding copyright registration 

Having a unique idea and turning it into something tangible gives you certain exclusive rights over it, granted it fulfills the prerequisites for copyrightability. The principle behind copyright registration is to protect "original works of authorship," which includes things like literature, music, art, and unique symbols such as logos. 

Once registered, a copyright protects your work from being copied, reproduced, or distributed without your express permission.

However, these rights are essentially defensive, meaning you'll have to assert them if someone infringes on your copyright. They don't prevent others from using similar elements in their work as long as they aren't identical or substantially similar to yours. Copied ideas are not protected, but copied execution is.

Understanding trademark registration 

A trademark protects you more broadly. It safeguards the unique phrase, word, symbol, or design associated with your product or service from being used by others in your industry, even if their use isn't identical, but only likely to cause confusion in the marketplace. This includes elements such as your business name, brand name, logo, slogans, and even packaging design.

A trademark not only differentiates your goods or services from those of your competitors, but it also assures customers of consistent quality or characteristics, therefore holding reputation and goodwill. 

Unlike copyright, a trademark can provide perpetual protection to the trademark owner as long as it's used in commerce and remains distinctive, which is crucial in a digital market where branding matters significantly.

Copyright and trademark symbols

When it comes to protecting your original artwork, such as your business logo, copyright and trademark symbols play critical roles. They are essential visual indicators that reflect your brand's unauthorized use protection. 

Let's take a closer look at these symbols and their significance: 

Copyright symbol ("©"): 

  • It includes the symbol "©", the year of first publication, and the copyright owner's name.

  • While the usage of the copyright symbol is not necessary under the law, using it makes it clear that your work is protected by copyright.

  • It signifies that the work cannot be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.

  • It can be used for any medium where copyright protection applies, including your logo design and other visual designs.

Trademark symbols: 

  1. ™ (Trademark):

    • This symbol indicates that the proceeding mark is being claimed as a trademark, even if an official application hasn’t been filed with a trademark office.

    • It is commonly used for goods connected with a particular brand.

  2. ℠ (Service Mark):

    • This one is used for services offered by a brand rather than physical goods.

    • Like the TM, the SM can also indicate that the mark is being claimed as a service mark, even without an official application.

  3. ® (Registered Trademark):

    • This symbol can only be used after the trademark has been reviewed, approved, and registered by an official trademark office.

    • It provides significant legal protection, showing that your business owns exclusive rights to that mark in your category of goods and services.

The importance of copyrighting your company's logo

Protecting your company's logo through copyright is crucial to maintaining your unique brand identity. A copyrighted logo safeguards your design, marking it as exclusively your intellectual property, thus preventing others from reproducing or using it without permission.

The security a copyright provides goes beyond just protecting the design—it secures the originality you've put into your logo, the symbol of your brand's essence. It's essential in a competitive digital market where imitation and fraud can dilute your brand's distinct image.

By copyrighting your logo, you're legally asserting your exclusive rights to it, ensuring your brand stands apart and remains uniquely identifiable.

How to copyright a logo step-by-step

Drawing logo on sketchpad

Now, let's navigate the steps of copyrighting your logo, equipping you with knowledge to safeguard your brand's uniqueness and integrity in the digital realm.

1. Create an original logo

Kickstarting the process of copyrighting your logo begins with creating an original piece of artwork. But why is uniqueness pivotal? Because copyright laws are protectors of original artwork, your logo must have a certain level of creativity to be copyrightable. 

Here are some important steps to consider when creating an original logo: 

  • Idea generation: A fantastic logo starts with a unique concept. Consider your brand's identity, ethos, service, and demographic while brainstorming.

  • Design sketching: A concept remains a concept until it is put to paper. This is the stage for sketching your vision. Rough drafts are your friends here, so feel free to play around with various ideas.

  • Digital illustration: After refining your sketches, start creating digital designs. Using tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can significantly aid this process. This step is crucial; it is where your logo begins to take shape.

  • Feedback and revision: No logo is perfect in its first iteration. Gather feedback from colleagues, friends, or potential customers. Use this feedback to make adjustments and enhance your design.

  • Finalization: Finally, it's time to refine your logo. Choose the right dimensions, color palettes, and typefaces to match your brand's identity. Ensure that the logo does not mirror any other designs to avoid infringing on anyone's copyright rights.

2. Fixation

Logo fixation is an essential step in copyright law. Fixation refers to the process of capturing your unique logo in a tangible or permanent medium. Without this, your brilliant idea can't be legally protected.

Why is it important? 
  • Establishes a "creation" date: By setting your logo in a definite form, you effectively establish a creation date. This is crucial come dispute time.

  • Eligibility for copyright protection: Copyright law only protects logo designs that are 'fixed in a tangible medium'. It doesn't cover ideas or concepts.

How to fix your logo? 
  • Physical form: Draw it on paper, paint it on canvas, or even carve it into wood!

  • Digital form: Utilize design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or free online tools to create a digital version of your logo.

  • 3D form: If your logo is three-dimensional, consider making a physical model, sculpture, or even a 3D-printed version.

3. Check copyright eligibility

Before you dive into the legalese of copyrighting your logo, it's pivotal to ensure that your logo is indeed eligible for copyright registration. This phase, termed 'Checking Copyright Eligibility', is the third step in our how-to guide. It's crucial to note that not all logos qualify for copyright protection. 

So, how do you determine if your logo fits the bill? Well, let's delve in, shall we? 

  • Originality: The basic threshold for copyright eligibility is that the work must be original – this means that it should reflect some degree of creativity by the author, and it shouldn’t replicate someone else's work. Commission an attorney to perform a search on the USPTO website through the Trademark Electronic Search System 

  • Artistic element: Copyright protection extends only to logos with enough artistic or design creativity. A logo having merely a company name typed out in a standard font, or simple and commonly used shapes or designs, could lack the necessary level of creativity to be considered for copyright protection.

  • Fixation: The U.S. Copyright Office necessitates that a work must be fixated in a physical medium that's stable and tangible for copyright eligibility. In simpler words, your logo needs to be captured or embodied in a medium where it can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time. This is typically not an issue for logos, which are usually designed digitally or on paper.

4. Prepare your application

There are different specifics involved depending on your region, but let's focus on the process within the United States, using the United States Copyright Office's guidelines. 

  • Understanding your application: Familiarize yourself with the application process and forms. Understanding the different requirements is essential to avoid delays or rejection due to missing or incorrect information.

  • Use the Copyright Office's Trademark Electronic Application System: The United States Copyright Office has an automated online registration system known as eCO, which you can use to trademark a logo. Alternatively, you can use a paper form like Form VA for Visual Arts, among others, for manual submissions.

  • Fill out the form: Fill in the required information, including the title of the work, the author's details, and specifics about the work's publication (if applicable).

  • Review the application: Considering that applications can be rejected for minor errors, it is essential to review your application carefully or even consider getting it reviewed by an attorney specializing in intellectual property law.

  • Include a deposit: A deposit of a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work is required to accompany the application.

  • Prepare the application package: If you're sending a paper application, all elements - the application, the copy or copies of the work, and the filing fee - must be sent in the same package. The package should be limited to 20 pounds per box.

5. Submit your application and fee

After you’ve prepared your copyright application and checked its precision, it'll be time to submit your form and pay the required fee. This phase crucially impacts your copyright process, and it's essential to ensure that you follow those steps correctly: 

  • Sending the application: There are two ways in which you can submit your application: online using the eCO eService or filing a paper application.

  • Online submission: If you opt to file your application online, not only is it convenient, but it also has an average processing time that is significantly faster compared to the paper option. You may pay by credit card if you choose this route.

  • Paper submission: This application process is longer and requires sending all three requirements, namely the application, a copy of your work, and the filing fee in the same package, with a limitation of 20 pounds per box. The filing fee is $65.

  • Copyright group: Be cautious when attempting to copyright several artworks. If you submit two or more works on the standard application, the Copyright Office may register only one of your works.

  • Trademark application: On the other hand, if you're submitting a trademark application, it's advised to have an attorney review your application before you submit it.

  • Checking the status: After submission, regularly check in on the application status. The USPTO allows for this, making it easier for you to keep track of your trademark or copyright application. 

6. Wait for approval

The waiting game begins once you've successfully submitted your copyright application for your logo. Time taken for approval may vary as it largely depends on the completeness of your application and the number of applications the U.S. Copyright Office or USPTO is reviewing at the time. Here's what to expect during this period: 

  • Processing times: Processing can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. Therefore, patience is crucial in this phase.

  • Checking application status: You can keep an eye on the status of your application by visiting the USPTO website or the eCO (Electronic Copyright Office) website. These portals are also your go-to resources for any updates or information.

  • Responding to office actions: If the copyright office identifies any issues with your application, it will send an office action. It is of paramount importance to respond to this action within six months; otherwise, your application might be considered abandoned.

  • Awaiting publication in the official gazette: Once your logo clears initial examination, it will be published in the Official Gazette. This publication is a public notice of all registered trademarks. The public has 30 days to file an opposition to your logo.

  • Dealing with oppositions: If objections are raised during the opposition period, you'll need to resolve these before progressing. The process might include legal proceedings, so it's good to be prepared.

  • Receiving certification: If no opposition is filed, or if you manage to resolve all disputes raised, your logo will then be registered, and you'll receive the copyright certificate. Having this adds a layer of protection to your logo, helping enforce your intellectual property rights.

Upholding copyright and trademark protection

Securing copyright and trademarks for your logo is only the first step. In the digital age, preserving and maintaining these protections requires active diligence. 

Here are some vital elements to remember when upholding your copyright and trademark protection: 

  • Regular monitoring: Conduct regular checks online and offline to ensure nobody is infringing your copyright or trademark. If infringement is detected, legal action should be taken promptly.

  • Renew regularly: Trademark rights need to be renewed every 10 years, while copyright protection lasts for the copyright holder's lifetime plus 70 years.

  • Consistent usage: Consistency in your logo's usage helps to enforce your trademark rights. Any inconsistent use might dilute its recognition and protection.

  • Educate your team: Your team should also be aware of the importance of consistent logo usage and the adverse consequences of unauthorized reproduction.

  • Safeguard your space: Respond aggressively to infringements. In some cases, a simple cease and desist letter may be sufficient. For more serious breaches, however, filing a lawsuit might be necessary.

Secure your copyright, then print with Gelato

Products displaying new logo

After successfully copyrighting your logo, it's time to bring your brand to life with high-quality prints. Gelato's print on demand service allows you to print your copyrighted logo on various products, such as t-shirts, mugs, wall art, phone cases, and photo books.

Use the personalization studio to customize your merchandise, ensuring it perfectly represents your brand. 

Whether you're a startup or an established online store, Gelato has a subscription plan to suit your specific needs and objectives. 

Sign up for Gelato today and start printing your logo with confidence, knowing it's fully protected.


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