Most business owners immediately think of their logo when they hear the word “trademark”. But a logo is actually not your first trademark, nor is it your most important one. It also shouldn’t be the first trademark you register.
Your name, whether your business name or your main brand name, is your first and most important trademark.
Your name is how customers refer to your business, your products, and your services. It’s what customers notice the most on packaging and advertising, and it’s how they search for your company online and in social media. Your name is the most memorable part of your brand.
Chances are, your name features prominently in your logo, but we recommend that you trademark your name and logo as separate trademarks.
Here’s a little-known fact about trademark registrations in Canada. A word mark registration, which is a registration for a name in no particular design format, grants you the exclusive right to use that name in any format. A design mark registration, which is how logos are registered, grants you the exclusive right to use your name in that specific format.
If you only have a design mark registration for your logo, it’s possible that someone could use your name, or more likely a slightly different name, in a very different logo format, and avoid a trademark infringement claim. But if you had a work mark registration for that name, your claim of infringement is much stronger. Word mark registrations provide much broader rights than design mark registrations.
Additionally, of your visual brand elements, logos tend to change over time. If your only trademark registration is for your logo, and it changes, you’ll have to register it again, or your brand could be unprotected by trademark registration. A word mark registration for your name will provide you with continuing registered trademark protection even if your logo changes.
This is not to say, that you shouldn’t bother registering your logo as a trademark. You should. Especially if your logo includes independent design features.
Effective brand protection requires a layered approach using multiple trademark registrations. These registrations work together and separately to give you broad tools to stop infringers from poaching any of the individual elements of your brand to subtly suggest a connection with you and your company.
Let’s dissect the Amazon brand into multiple trademark registrations to illustrate this layered approach to brand protection.
A word mark registration for the name AMAZON gives the exclusive right to use this name in any format, including the font and lower-case lettering that currently appears in the Amazon logo. If the appearance of this word was ever to change, a word mark registration would continue to protect it.
The smile arrow icon is a second separate registered trademark, and it gives Amazon a broad tool to stop others from combining this icon with a completely different name to suggest a connection or affiliation with Amazon.
If Amazon’s only trademark registration was for the combination of the name and icon, their ability to stop others from using the smile arrow icon would arguably be limited to circumstances where the icon is used along with a name that is the same as or similar to Amazon.
You should adopt the same layered approach to protect your brand.
Start by trademarking your name, and then, when you’re certain your logo will not change for the foreseeable future and it’s financially feasible to do so, register your combination name + design logo or just the individual design elements as your trademarks too.
Markably® provides headache-free trademarking for names and logos in Canada. Get started for free today.