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What is the Difference Between a Stylized Logo and Standard Character Trademark?

By John DiGiacomo

Broadly speaking, there are two types of trademarks: stylized design/logo trademarks and standard character/word trademarks. Here is a quick description of the similarities and differences.

Stylized Logo Trademarks

Stylized logo trademarks are very common in use and, literally, millions of them have been successfully registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Some are simple like the Nike “Swoosh” design. Others are more complex. As the name implies, a stylized logo is a design of some sort that is unique and uniquely identifies the company or business that provides the goods or services with which the trademark is associated. A stylized logo may include words — but does not have to — and consists of many possible design elements. For example, a logo may contain unusual types of characters and unique lettering for words like the stylized lettering used in the famous KISS logo for the band. Coloring and shapes may also distinguish a logo such as the green square used by H&R Block. Font size and placement of lettering may also create a unique logo that functions as a trademark. For example, in one case involving competing claims to trademarks for Detroit coffee brands, the court noted that the competing trademarks were distinguishable partly because one trademark emphasized the word “BOLD” while the competing trademark emphasized and enlarged the word “DETROIT.”

Standard Character Word Trademark

By contrast, a standard character word trademark does not contain any design elements. It is a text-only word or phrase that is used as a trademark. There are no stylized elements to the words, no fonts or special lettering or color or variations in size or capitalization.

Which Type of Trademark Should I Create and Register?

Each type of trademark has advantages and disadvantages. Stylized logos have the advantages of being relatively easy to create and easy to make distinctive. Distinctiveness is an important factor in being able to register a trademark with the USPTO. If a trademark is not distinctive, it will not be registered, or, more accurately, will not be registered until the trademark has acquired distinctiveness by long-term use in commerce.

Stylized logo trademarks have the disadvantage of having a somewhat narrow range of trademark protection. This is because a different stylized logo can be created with enough changes that the two logos will not cause confusion in the minds of consumers. Stylized logo trademarks also have the disadvantage that they must be used exactly as they are to satisfy the continuing use-in-commerce requirements of trademark registration.

On the other hand, standard character trademarks have the advantage of having a slightly broader trademark protection. This is because a character trademark can be modified by font, unique lettering, color, size, capitalization and placement. These types of changes do not diminish the protections afforded by registration. The trademarked word or phrase is protected by trademark law however they are used. But, as noted, with a stylized logo, even small changes might result in the USPTO requiring a new trademark application to be filed.

For these and other reasons, many companies and businesses create and register both standard character and stylized logo trademarks.

Contact Revision Legal

For more information or if you have questions about creating and registering a trademark, contact the trademark lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.

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