How to copyright a logo design

Like any intellectual property, a logo design can be trademarked and copyrighted. This protects a logo from being copied or reused without the owner's permission. Depending on the type of logo, the proper required legal protection could be a copyright or a trademark. In some case, both are needed to ensure full legal protection. In any case, here is what you need to do to ensure that your logo design is legally your design.

Your Logo and Your Business Name

Before you go ahead with copyrighting or trademarking your logo design, you should first decide if you only need your logo to be protected or if you need to trademark the name of your company as well. Trademarking your company's name will provide greater legal protection, but the name has to be unique not in use by a different company.

Trademarking Versus Copyrighting

Once you've decided whether or not you need to trademark your company's name, your next step is to decide whether your logo design needs to be trademarked or copyrighted. There is some overlap between trademarking and copyrighting, and many people have trouble distinguishing the two terms. Trademarking protects things that identify a business within a marketplace, while copyrighting protects works of authorship that can be tangibly expressed. The name of a company can be trademarked, as can a logo used to identify a company in the marketplace. Meanwhile, a logo design can be copyrighted because it's a tangible work of art or authorship. A logo designer who creates a logo for a company may even have the copyright for the logo design instead of the company itself. 

As a rule, a logo design must meet some level of creativity if it is to be copyrighted, so this is usually reserved for the most ornate and creative of logos. If your logo design has a unique look, it can be copyrighted. If it is a simplistic design that only serves to represent a company within a certain marketplace, it should be trademarked. If your logo design meets both criteria, you may need a copyright and a trademark.

Filling Out the Proper Forms

Since the copyright filing system with the U.S. government is now paperless, you will have to go online to and click on the eCo Online Registration button. Fill out the form and submit it with an image of the logo. The application fee costs $35.

Filing for a trademark is a similar process, although it does require more work. Go online to the Trademark Electronic Application System at You will have to fill out an initial application form as well as an "intent to use" form to designate where the logo will be seen. You will have to pay $50 for every intended use as well as a $325 fee for the trademark itself.

A Few Final Tips

Before you go through with the copyrighting or trademarking process, make sure that your logo design isn't too similar to something that already exists. Also, keep in mind that if you hire someone to create a logo design without contracting it as a work made for hire, the designer will own the copyright or trademark.