How to Trademark and Copyright Your eCommerce Store Name and Logo in the United States (2020)
Did you spend a lot of time choosing your name and designing a logo?
It’s important to make sure you apply for the registration of the copyright and trademark of both your name and logo. Doing so will protect them from being used by anyone else without permission. If someone does use them, you have the power to sue them.
In this guide, we’ll tell you how to trademark and copyright your website or eCommerce store name and logo.
- Do I Have to Trademark or Copyright my eCommerce Store Name and Logo?
- What Is the Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?
- How to Register the Copyright of Your Name and Logo
- How to Apply for a Trademark in the United States
- How to Enforce Your Trademark and Copyright Rights
- Final Thoughts
But first, we’ll talk about why doing so is important, and the differences between a trademark and copyright.
Do I Have to Trademark or Copyright my eCommerce Store Name and Logo?
Although in the U.S. you don’t legally have to register the copyright and trademark your business name and logo, doing so will make sure they’re both protected. If you’re running a physical store in your state, there’s no real need to go through the copyright and trademark motions, unless you want to expand, perhaps.
Technically, you own the copyright of your work as soon as it’s saved or put on paper. By using your logo for your business, you acquire common law rights automatically.
However, just having that in mind won’t stop another company from using it. That could cause damage to your brand and reputation, especially when you run a website or online store.
By registering for the copyright and trademarking your name and logo, you strengthen your rights. You can issue a cease and desist letter to anyone using your name and logo or ones very similar, without permission. If they don’t comply, you can then sue them.
On the other side of the coin, if you don’t register the copyright and trademark of your name and logo, you won’t know if another company has already registered it. If it’s already been registered, you are the one infringing on a copyright and trademark.
That could land you in some deep water, plus, you’ll have to change your name and logo, which is not ideal if you’ve already built up your business.
What Is the Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?
Although both a copyright and trademark offer protection from being used elsewhere, there are some differences between the two.
As a quick reference; copyright protects your rights to your name and logo because you created them and stops someone copying them.
A trademark protects your name and logo from someone else using them for their own purposes and confusion in the marketplace. That’s why it’s important to have both.
We’ll go a little more in-depth below.
©️ What Is Copyright?
Copyright protects original works. That includes literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works, to name a few. For instance, videos, books, paintings, photography, movies, and so on, are all copyrighted from the time they’re created. That includes your logo, too. However, unless you actually register the copyright, you’ll have no legal defense against anyone that tries to use it as their own.
Once you have registered the copyright, you’ll have a document to prove that the work is yours, and you can sue anyone who tries to use it as their own.
That said, to actually get copyright protection for your logo, it must meet certain requirements. A simple logo may not even be considered. It needs to have a certain level of creativity because the design, colors, and name are not protectable.
®️ What Is a Trademark?
Although copyright is important, having a trademark offers even more protection. That’s because copyright can’t really cover a name, but a trademark can cover a word, phrase, design, or symbol (or a combination).
The trademark will cover your business name, a slogan, logo, or anything that is part of your brand identity.
With all of that, your brand is protected from copycats that sell similar services or products. That means they can’t use the same slogans, logos, names, etc., which is important in stopping customers from mistaking another company for yours.
Now, you may think that copyright isn’t needed because the trademark covers it all, but a trademark doesn’t protect it from being copied exactly. It only covers similarities between your business mark and others that closely resemble it, to avoid confusion. That means if you only register for a trademark, you can’t stop someone from actually copying your logo.
How to Register the Copyright of Your Name and Logo
You can submit your application for copyright through a paper form, but the most convenient way to do it is online. When you apply online, it can take up to 8 months for your application to be processed. That’s a long time, but paper forms can take even longer, at up to 13 months. Either way, the date from which your registration becomes effective is the date that the Copyright Office receives your application. That means you can publish your work from then.
Here, we’ll give you a step by step guide on how to apply for the copyright of your name and logo online in the United States.
Step 1: To get started, simply go to the United States Copyright Office’s official website. Once you’re there, click “Register,” on the “Register a Copyright” image. This will take you to the “Registration Portal.”
Step 2: On the “Registration Portal” page, click “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System.”
Step 3: From here you need to register as a new user (unless you already have an account to login with).
Step 4: Fill in the form to register an account. There are two pages.
Step 5: Next you’ll see a usage terms box. Click “Next,” and then “Finish” on the next page.
Step 6: You’ll now see your eCO dashboard, which shows any existing cases you have open. From here, you need to click “standard application” under “Register a Work”
Step 7: You now need to click “Start Registration.” From there you will provide all of the relevant information for your application, pay the fee, and upload the work that you want to be copyrighted (you can also mail a copy).
Once you’re finished, you should receive confirmation of the registration, though it’ll still be pending. Remember, though, your copyright starts from the day you submitted your application.
How to Apply for a Trademark in the United States
Before we tell you how to trademark your name and logo, it’s important that you make sure a similar name or logo isn’t already being used.
To do that, use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) tool. It’ll run a search through the database and identify any potential conflicts with existing trademarks or those that are waiting for approval.
If you don’t check this first, you run the risk of your trademark not being approved because it already exists. Simply filling in your registration form does not check the database. Plus, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not check it until after your application is submitted.
Once you’ve checked the database, you can file your application, so let’s get to it.
Step 1: Go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website, and click “Apply for a trademark.”
Step 2: You’ll now be on the “Apply online” page. Here, you need to click on number 1, “Initial application forms.”
Step 3: You’ll now see information about the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). There are 2 initial application forms to choose from; TEAS Plus and TEAS Standard.
The current web page explains the differences between the two, but the key differences are:
- Submitting a TEAS Plus has more up-front requirements. The result of you agreeing to that means you pay a lower fee, though, which is $225 per class of goods/services.
- If you submit a TEAS Standard, there are fewer up-front requirements. You’ll still need to meet all of the requirements, just at a later date. You’ll also pay a higher fee of $275 per class of goods/services.
Once you’re ready to apply, click the “Start your application in TEAS” button, and follow the steps. Once you’ve finished your submission, you’ll receive confirmation via email.
It can take around 3 months for an attorney to review your application, and determine if it can be approved.
You are responsible for monitoring the progress of your application through the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR).
You should do so every 3-6 months. One thing to note is that even if the application gets refused later down the line, you will not be refunded the fees.
The Trademark Approval Process
Once you’ve filed your application, the USPTO will review your application and assign a serial number. It’s then forwarded to the examining attorney. That all sounds quick, but it can actually take a few months.
The examining attorney will then review your application and determine whether it complies accordingly. They will conduct a search for conflicting marks, examine the written application, and any other information.
If it is determined that a trademark should not be registered, you will receive a letter explaining the reasons why. That may include any imperfections within the application.
If it’s only minor, they may contact you via telephone or email instead. If you do receive a letter that needs action, you (or your attorney) will need to respond within 6 months of the issue date, otherwise, your application will be declared abandoned.
So long as there are no objections to your registration, the mark will be approved. It will then be published in the USPTO’s weekly publication, the Official Gazette. Publishing the mark gives other parties 30 days to file an opposition to registration, or to extend the time if they feel they may be damaged by it.
If there’s no opposition or the opposition is unsuccessful, you go to the next stage of the registration process. Note that it can take 3-4 months before you receive any notice of the status of the application.
You should continue to monitor it, as previously stated. You’ll receive a certificate of registration from the USPTO.
You have to maintain that registration and tell the USPTO that your trademark is in use. You also need to file maintenance documents, or your trademark will be canceled or will expire.
How to Enforce Your Trademark and Copyright Rights
Once you have officially registered your trademark and copyright, the USPTO will make sure that no one else registers the same mark or one that’s very similar. However, you are responsible for enforcing your rights if another party uses your name and logo without permission.
You can hire a company or attorney to ensure that no one else uses your mark, and you can also hire an attorney to help deal with infringement. That can be expensive, though, and you can do it by yourself, so it’s not essential.
If you do find that someone is using your logo and name, you can either issue a cease and desist letter or choose a trademark infringement lawsuit.
You’re not required by law to register the copyright and trademark your name and logo. It’s certainly a good idea, though, especially with an online business.
With the number of internet shoppers rising each year, it’s important to make sure that your business or eCommerce stores name and logo stay distinguished from other similar websites. That’ll stop confusion for potential customers, and also stop your reputation being damaged by another company.
By registering a copyright, you are ensuring that another party can’t copy your logo design. By registering a trademark, you are ensuring that no one can trademark the same name and logo, or one very similar. It may take a while to go through the actual process initially, but it’s well worth it.
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