Trademarks come in a couple of different forms. Two of the most common types of trademarks are standard character trademarks and design trademarks.
While both types of trademarks serve the same purpose of protecting your brand, there are some important differences between them. This post explores the differences between standard character trademarks and design trademarks and discusses some of the pros and cons of each.
What is a Standard Character Trademark?
A standard character trademark protects the words or letters that make up your brand name or logo. With a standard character trademark, you’re protecting the specific words or letters of your brand. This protection generally extends to any presentation, format, coloring, sizing, etc., rather than any particular font or design.
Pros of Standard Character Trademarks:
One of the biggest advantages of a standard character trademark is that it provides broader protection for your brand than other types of trademarks.
Standard character marks apply to the claimed words and symbols however they are presented. So, the protection can generally extend to most font, color, sizing, or other display. By protecting the words or letters that make up your brand name or logo, in any font, size, color, or other form of display, you can prevent others from using similar words or letters in their own branding. This protection can extend to cover situations where a competitor is using the same name but displayed slightly differently. This broad protection help you maintain a strong brand identity and prevent confusion in the marketplace.
Cons of Standard Character Trademarks:
When applying for a standard character trademark, the trademark examiner will conduct a search for similar trademarks that are already registered or pending. If the examiner finds a similar trademark, they may reject your application, and you’ll need to address the issue before the trademark can be approved.
Because words and letters are more common than unique designs, the potential for confusion with existing trademarks or pending applications is higher for standard character trademarks. This means that obtaining a standard character trademark can be more challenging than obtaining a design trademark.
The chances of an examiner raising a rejection in view of a similar mark can be mitigated by performing a pre-filing search of the same name, or similar names. Searching for confusingly similar names can be a complicated task that can add expense to the process. However, some attorneys will perform a direct-hit search of your desired name as a courtesy when preparing a trademark application. While this does not guarantee that the examiner will not find a similar mark, it does reduce the chances of filing on a name that is already in use.
What is a Design Trademark?
A design trademark is based on the visual or graphic elements of a brand, rather than just the words or letters. This includes any unique colors, shapes, fonts, or graphics that make up your logo or branding. With a design trademark, you’re protecting the entire visual design of your mark, rather than just the words or letters.
Pros of Design Trademarks:
One of the biggest advantages of a design trademark is that it provides strong protection for your visual brand identity. By protecting the overall visual design of your logo or branding, you can prevent others from using similar designs or logos, even if they use different words or letters. This can help you maintain a strong and unique brand identity in the marketplace.
Another advantage of a design trademark is that it can be used to protect more than just your logo or branding. Depending on the design elements you’re protecting, a design trademark can also be used to protect product packaging, advertisements, and other branding materials.
Cons of Design Trademarks:
One of the biggest disadvantages of a design trademark is that it may not provide as broad of protection as a standard character trademark in some use cases. This can be because you’re only protecting a specific design, and as such, a competitor could potentially use a similar name as long as they use it in the context of a different design. This means that you may need to rely on other forms of protection, such as a standard character mark, to protect the name or wording you are using with the design.
Which Type of Trademark Should You Choose?
Ultimately, the type of trademark you choose will depend on your specific needs and goals.
Where budgets are limited a standard character trademark may be the best choice for the broad foundation of protection it offers, since a standard character mark protects the claimed words however they are presented. This is especially true if you have a strong brand name or slogan that you want to protect. On the other hand, if you have a unique logo or design that’s central to your brand identity, a design trademark may be a better option if you can only file one application.
In many cases, a combination of both standard character and design trademarks is the best approach. This approach combines the benefits of both trademark types, and as such, can provide broad protection for both the words and design elements of your brand. This protection can help you to maintain a strong and unique identity in the marketplace.
In conclusion, standard character trademarks and design trademarks serve the same purpose of protecting your brand, but they have some important differences. Standard character trademarks provide broad protection for the words or letters of your brand, while design trademarks protect the specific design elements of your branding. Both types of trademarks have their own pros and cons, and the type of trademark you choose will depend on your specific needs and goals. By understanding the differences between these two types of trademarks, you can make an informed decision about the best way to protect your brand identity.
It’s important to note that trademarks are just one aspect of protecting your brand. Other forms of protection, such as copyright and design patents, may also be necessary to fully protect your brand identity. Working with an attorney or other legal professional can help ensure that taking all necessary steps to safeguard your intellectual property.
About the Author
Scott is an intellectual property lawyer and registered patent attorney. Scott’s intellectual property practice includes patent prosecution, trademark registration, and post-grant proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, such as inter partes review. Scott has extensive experience preparing infringement opinions and conducting validity analyses of competitor portfolios.
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