Company logos are often the face of companies and have the privilege of making first impressions. They are essentially illustrations in representation of companies, displaying the attributes and values companies have and want to impress upon the public. Logos tell powerful stories, sometimes without even containing any words. From a trademark perspective, logos identify companies (or in some cases, individuals) and distinguish them from others, and they fall under the category of “special form” marks.
Logos have the rare benefit of potentially lasting forever. Human beings may come and go in any particular institution, but logos stay loyal until asked to step aside. What would McDonald’s be without its golden arches, Nike without its swoosh, or Apple without its partially-eaten apple? What would Honda be without its capital “H”, Mastercard without its iconic red and yellow intersecting circles, or Wikipedia without its unfinished globe? It is hard to imagine any of these companies without their logos. Other world-famous logos are Microsoft’s multi-colored four-square window, Meta’s (f/k/a “Facebook”) white letter “f” surrounded by a blue rectangular background, and Mercedes-Benz’ silver circle with a three-pointed star in the center.
Without a company logo, what would a business, large or small, use as its profile images across various social media accounts? Does it want to be associated with a face that could potentially be gone tomorrow? Logos create consistency and demonstrate that a company is bigger than any one man or woman. Pictures (and by extension, logos) are worth a thousand words.
Consider the picture superiority effect. It has been scientifically determined that pictures and images are more likely to be remembered or recalled than words. This makes the case for a company logo being even more important than a company name. For something to rival, let alone potentially surpass, the importance of a company name, it must be taken very seriously.
While logos are often artistic in nature, their legal significance is of equal importance. Using a similar or—worse—identical logo of another company, especially a company that works in the same or a related field, can create considerable legal problems and ultimately result in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The party bringing the lawsuit might have lost business or reputation by way of the infringing party’s unlawful logo use, and the party being sued now has to defend against a suit for damages and/or an injunction as well as potentially commence a rebranding process. For these reasons, a company is well-advised to have its own, unique logo, and to protect it by obtaining a federal trademark or service mark registration. Similarly, new companies, or companies initiating a rebranding effort, must ensure that the logos they are designing or are being designed for them are unique and unlikely to cause confusion with existing logos, designs that don’t step on the toes of other companies’ or individuals’ rights and that are capable of being registered with minimal or no USPTO or third-party challenges.
For legal purposes, everything about a logo matters: its color(s) or lack thereof, such as a black-and-white drawing, word(s) (sometimes known as the “literal element”), design(s), and how and when it was, is, or will be used and by what or whom. Analysis of infringement and registrability is often complex.
This law firm has experience with clearing, registering, and protecting company logos. If you would like to make an appointment with Kincaid Business & Entrepreneurial Law, LLC ® regarding a company logo, whether in relation to a search and clearance process, a trademark application, or handling a trademark infringement case, please feel free to conveniently schedule with us here. You may also wish to read more about intellectual property law and trademark law on our website.