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Strong Marks

Logos: The Strong vs. the Weak
by Ann Jensen Warman

A logo that identifies a business and is strongly distinctive will be easier to register as a trademark than a more ordinary image. It’s also sometimes true that an ordinary image may be better able to promote a business than a more distinctive alternative, despite the easier trademarking.

In order to pass the trademarking process, a logo and its combination of words and images must represent your company uniquely within your particular marketplace. If one of your same-market competitors has a logo that ressembles yours, one of the marks will not be certifiable as a trademark; the similarity in appearance may also confuse your buyers.

Likelihood of Confusion
The term LOC refers to the likelihood of confusion when two marks are compared. If the goods and services are similar and the trademarks lack distinction from each other, consumers are likely to be confused about who is the source of the goods and services.

US trademark regulation is based on "Senior User Common Law Rights", that is, the business that uses the trademark for the first time is the owner, whether the mark is registered or not.

Risk of trademark infringement can never be eliminated completely when new logos are being created. However, the risk can be significantly reduced through a trademark search of both registered and unregistered (common law) marks. An experienced Trademark Attorney is valuable for this during the selection phase of a logo.


Trade Dress
A logo, a name, and a slogan are all separate trademarks; they each require their own trademark application. "Trade Dress" is a term that signifies the total image of a product or service created through a combination of features such as size, shape, color or color combinations, texture, and graphics. All of these features work together to yield distinctive, registerable marks.

A weak mark can acquire distinctiveness if, through extensive sales, advertising, and marketing, the general public comes to recognize the mark and associates it with a particular business.


Four Types of Logo Design
1) Logos designed in classic fonts with no modification to the font. Their strength is gained in their distinctive name and their consistent use over time:


2) Logos designed by modifying type (called logotypes):

Microsoft: (note o)
Yves Saint Laurent:

3)Logos designed with embedded graphic in type:


4) Signatures as logos:

John Hancock:


Over-used, Risky Design Elements
Commonly over-used graphical elements to avoid in your logo design are:

1) Rectangles with diagonal lines, and

2) A circle with a letter inside.

When deciding on the effectiveness of a mark, look at the entire communication of the individual elements – the color, the shape, the balance, the lines, the fonts, and the overall resonance. Also study what your competitors are doing. A strong mark will convey distinctiveness and it will be easily remembered.

Resources for Trademark Searches >>

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