What is the difference between a logo and a trademark?

What is the difference between logo and trademark

What is the difference between a logo and a trademark? Ever seen a logo with an (R) next to it? Of course, you have. It is a pretty prominent part of the logo of many major companies. This (R) means that the logo is trademarked. This, of course, has many people wondering what a trademark is. And, perhaps more importantly, how trademarks are different from logos.

As Sanders Design is a graphics design company, I do get a lot of questions about logos and trademarks. So, I figured that I would take you through the differences between the two in a simple way. While I am going to be touching upon the legal side of trademarks and trademark registration here, don’t think of this as legal advice. It is more of an introductory guide to those interested in having a logo created for their business. 

As a side note, I am going to be looking at things from a British perspective here. Sanders Design is in the UK, after all. So, if you are outside of the UK, some of the small references I make to trademark law may be a little bit different. Don’t worry too much about that, though. My primary focus is ensuring that you know the differences between a logo and a trademark.

What is a logo?

A logo is a symbol or design that you are using to represent your brand or products. For example, the following would be logos:

  • The yellow M for McDonald’s
  • The tick for Nike
  • The word ‘Amazon’ with a smile underneath

The name of your company could even be your logo if you wanted. Although, normally, it would be jazzed up a little bit with a cool font or small image. 

Basically, all you need to know is that the logo is the graphic for your company. It is the image that, when people see it, they know that they are dealing with your company.

This is what Sanders Design specialises in, we help with the design of logos that really help your business speak to the world. It is one of the most important parts of branding your company. 

What is the difference between logo and trademark? - Graphic design books

What is a Wordmark?

When you carry out your research into trademarks and logos, you may stumble across the word ‘wordmark’. This word can be a little bit confusing.

A wordmark is just a logo. It is a logo that is simply a word, i.e. with no additional images added. For example:

  • Coca Cola
  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • FedEx

Their logos are simply stylised text. 

If you are looking for a wordmark logo, then the team here at Sanders Design can help you with that.

What is a trademark?

There are three things I want you to remember here:

  • A logo can be a trademark
  • Not all logos are trademarks
  • Not all trademarks are logos 

So, what is a trademark?

A trademark is something that identifies a company. Something that you would associate with a particular company if you saw it. Let’s take McDonald’s, for instance. Let me tell you three of the trademarks they hold:

  • The golden arches logo
  • McFlurry name
  • ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ slogan

If I didn’t say the word McDonald’s before, you would still know that all of these are associated with the company and only this company. A trademark is essentially a representation of part of the brand of a company. They are 100% unique to that company in the industry.

A trademark is not automatic. A business would have to register a trademark. If a logo or another part of a brand is not registered as a trademark, then a company would have fewer legal protections. 

When a company holds a trademark, they have legal protection in place. This means similar companies aren’t able to copy it. Not even a little bit. 

For example, another fast-food company wouldn’t be able to use a big yellow N as their logo. They wouldn’t be able to call an ice cream ‘MacFlurry’, and they probably wouldn’t be able to use the slogan ‘I love it’. If another company used anything remotely similar, then McDonald’s would sue.

This doesn’t automatically happen with just a logo. For example, if McDonald’s didn’t hold a trademark for the golden arches, then another fast-food business could easily make a red arch logo. Although, they wouldn’t be able to do a straight copy of the McDonald’s logo because McDonald’s would hold the copyright. 

Any major company would trademark as much as they could to ensure that their brand stays unique.

So, in summary. A registered trademark is something that represents your business and only your business. No other company in your industry can use anything similar. If they create a design, quote, name, etc., that could easily be mistaken for your company, then they have broken trademark laws.

What is the difference between logo and trademark? - McDonald's

Does a logo automatically become a trademark?

No. You would have to register it as a trademark. 

I don’t really want to go too far into the legal advice here. However, I do want to bring in a completely new concept; copyright.

When you produce a logo, you have the copyright on that logo. Other companies can only use the logo if they have your permission to use the logo. You don’t have to register a thing. That logo is yours and yours alone. Nobody can copy your logo precisely if you hold the copyright to it.

What a trademark covers isn’t necessarily the logo as a whole. It is the concept behind the logo. So, the colours that you use. The shapes that you use, etc. When you register a trademark, not only does it mean that a company wouldn’t be able to copy your logo exactly, but they wouldn’t be able to have a logo that shares a similar concept to yours. 

How do you register a trademark in the UK?

As I said, trademarks are not automatic. Not just in the UK, but in most countries (including the United States). They are something that you would have to apply for. You do not have to do that with copyright; that is automatic. Although, you have far fewer protections there.

I am not going to give you legal advice here. If you consider whether to get a trademark, you would need to consult with a lawyer. I am just a graphics designer creating awesome logos for companies. However, for the sake of completeness, I want to give you an overview of the steps to get a trademark registered. 

In the UK, trademark registration is handled by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and it is an expensive and costly process to go through for small businesses. 

Once the trademark is registered, the legal protections last for 10-years, but only if a company continues to use its trademark and enforce it if another company breaches it. 

A company would have to renew their trademark every 10-years, or they lose the right to it. 

Summary

I know I have just thrown a whole lot of information at you. I have tried to make things as simple as possible, but trademark law is a particularly complicated legal system. 

It is one of the few laws that can stretch across multiple nations. So, let me quickly sum things up without the legal jargon. This way, you aren’t really left with any confusion as to the difference between a logo and a trademark.

  • A logo is a graphical representation of your business or product, e.g. a stylised version of your business name or a small piece of art used as part of your branding.
  • A trademark is a legal protection for parts of your branding. This could be your logo, a company slogan, etc. This has to be registered.

If you are a small company that isn’t really planning on going national, let alone international, then you don’t need to worry about trademarks all that much. 

This is something that only companies that have a lot of competition would even need to consider. I can assure you that if you run a small local company, registering trademarks probably won’t benefit you at all. 

Your focus should be on having a logo designed by an expert designer. You will still have some legal protections in place when you have a company logo, albeit not as many as with a trademark. 

Looking for a graphics designer?

Since you are on this page, you may be looking for a logo for your business. If you are looking for design help for a brand new logo, then reach out to me here at Sanders Design

I have helped companies all over the world by producing some fantastic logos for their company. When you get a logo from Sanders Design, then you get the full copyright on it. This means that your company, and only your company, will be able to use it.

Let my logo designs become a central part of your business branding.