The Devil’s in the Details: The Fine Art of Trademarking your Logo

Kirk Wells
January 10, 2021

So you created the world’s greatest logo. Congrats. Now what?
Trademarking. Just slap a ® on it and call it a day, right? (Well, maybe it’s a little more involved than that.)

Getting Started with a Trademark or Service Mark

Start with a TM (Trademark). That means you are providing notice of a claim of common-law right. You are claiming the ownership of that logo, but beware, a TM does not guarantee protection under trademark law and might not protect you from infringement. This symbol is generally used while awaiting confirmation of your Registered trademark status.

The SM (Service mark) works the same way as a TM, but instead of denoting a product brand, the symbol represents a service (such as a plumber or an airline.)  As a service mark, the logo must be used somewhere at the “point of service”—like the uniform of a delivery man or the vehicle of a cleaning service.

The Next Level: A Registered Trademark

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to have your brand or service officially registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. That’s when you can finally throw an ® (Registered Trademark, or R-ball for designers) on it. Using this symbol means that you have registered ownership or legal ownership of this brand or product. It also means you have legal protection against any infringement on your brand, product or service. Registering your mark can be a process, but it’s ultimately worth it for your peace of mind.

A cautionary word though: Don’t slap that ® on until it’s official, because you’ll be open to litigation from anyone who was misled by your claim to have the sole rights to that brand or service. And, adding a premature ® can prevent your registration efforts from being approved.

Guidelines to Using Your Registration Mark

Now you’ve got your trademark registered, and you can safely plaster Uncle Jerry’s Custom Toupee Glue on every billboard or pop-up ad from here to China. There’s only one problem, the ® symbol. Where does it go? Good design is invisible but, in this case, you need to make sure it’s not too invisible.

Color: Don’t overthink it.

Trademark ColorGenerally, whatever the color of your logo or wordmark, that’s the color of your ® symbol. If your mark brand color is black, just stick with black. Adding a color to the ® symbol in that instance would seem unintentional and can disrupt the overall aesthetic of the logo. And if your mark uses a different color for every letter (I’m looking at you, Google), you’re on your own.

Size: Does my ® look big in this?

Trademark Size

You wouldn’t want the ® symbol to compete with the mark from a hierarchy standpoint, so try to keep it fairly small in relation to the size of your logo mark. A good rule of thumb: Imagine there was a period at the end of your wordmark. You ultimately want the ® symbol to be approximately the size of that period, if not slightly bigger. Also, make sure to see how your ® symbol holds up extremely small. Visibility at reduced sizes is important.

Type: Keep it Simple, Stupid

Trademark font type

For brand consistency, it’s always best to use the ® symbol found in the glyphs of your brand typeface. That’s a no brainer. But, in some cases, the typeface being used might not have a ® symbol in its type family. In cases like this, try looking for a substitute font that’s similar in style and weight to your brand typeface. And in a pinch, Helvetica has a fairly standard ® symbol.

Placement: Location, Location, Location

Trademark placement

Location of the ® symbol depends on several factors, but mainly it depends on the orientation of the mark. Today, most ® symbols are typically on the right side of the mark. This helps with the visual hierarchy and leverages the viewer’s natural reading pattern of left to right. You want it close to your mark, anchored visually but not floating away. Sort of like a satellite closely orbiting a planet.

 

Branding is an exciting process. But amid the creativity, it’s important to cover the business and legal basics too. We hope this primer helps!