Entrepreneurs are often confused by how they should protect their brands. For the answer to this, we only need to understand what a brand is. Simply put, it’s any physical representation of how your audience connects with your products and services. Brands, therefore, have trademarked everything from the colour of packaging (Cadbury’s) to the positioning of the label on jeans (Levi’s). You can trademark a word, logo, sound, graphic, color combination and even smell (find out how to trademark your brand). Usually, though, only very successful brands trademark anything besides their brand name, logo or a logo composite.
So let’s understand the difference between these three, usually called Word Mark, Logo Mark and Logo Composite Mark.
This simplest of the three, the word mark refers to the brand name. So if a brand – let’s say Reliance, Hero Motors or Parle – has trademarked only the word, it is known as a word mark. Most start-ups will only register their brand name within their class (a toy manufacturer would only file a trademark under Class 28). This means that even if there already is an existing business operating under the same name as the toy manufacturer but in another sector, the trademark would still be approved, unless the other business can prove that his customers are confused about ownership of the toy manufacturer’s brand. If this existing business, however, is a very large brand (McDonald’s, for example), there’s no chance the word mark would be approved even if the application is restricted to an industry McDonald’s is not into.
If your logo is how your customers notice you, you would want to file a trademark for that logo. Brands whose logos are very recognisable – Nike, Mercedes, Apple – have all done so. The reason these brands have trademarked their logos is that they use them extensively, on their products, in advertising and all other interactions with customers. The three brands noted above, you’ll notice, don’t have their brand name within their logo.
Logo Composite Mark
Several brands get what is known as a logo composite mark, which incorporates the name of the brand into the logo. Prominent examples would be BMW and Coca-Cola. Levi’s has an elaborate logo composite mark, which includes even the position of its label on the back of its jeans.
Start-ups, however, tend to file a logo composite mark only when they’ve found that their brand has already been trademarked or is too similar to a registered brand name. While the registry could certainly raise an objection, these applications often get passed on the grounds that they are being represented by a distinct mark. That said, it’s generally a bad idea to use a brand name that isn’t entirely unique, as problems could arise should your brand pose a threat to the already registered brand name.