Logos: Trademark or Copyright?

When it comes to logos, you can register a copyright, trademark, or both. For the purpose of this article, logos are graphical depictions symbolizing a company.

What is a Copyright?

A copyright is a legal device that gives the holder the right to decide how, who, and when the copyrighted content is used. There are two types of copyright: common law and registered. The common law copyright is automatic. You get a registered copyright by filing an application with the US Copyright Office. It costs a little time and money to complete. However, a registered copyright provides significantly more protections. You can only get a copyright on something you own. Consequently, if you only have permission to use the logo, you cannot copyright it.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a unique piece of intellectual property used for the purpose of defending your brand and goodwill. Trademarks can be a word, series of words, or a graphical design.

Benefits of Copyright for Logos

You get to control every aspect of your copyrighted materials. This includes how, when, and how may use it. Registered copyrights give you statutory damages of $30,000 or more per violation. This provides you incentive to enforce your copyrights. Additionally, you get attorney fees.

Benefits of Trademark

Similarly, you get to control who may use your trademarks. You are somewhat limited to your specific industry. However, you do get some protections to ensure people are not diluting your brand or goodwill. Like copyrights, registered trademarks give you statutory damages and attorney fees. You are able to trademark images you don’t have ownership of. However, you have to be sure to have permission to obtain the registered trademark. Unlike copyrights, you can enforce you trademark without an exact match. All you have to show is a likelihood of confusion. For example, a brand that sounds like your brand may be enough to enforce your trademark.


Although they come with a lot of benefits, they also come with costs. The filing fees for copyrights range from $26 to $55 for a single application. Trademarks cost $275 per class, per application. On top of the filing fees, you’ll also likely have attorney fees or other costs. Enforcement of your intellectual property is even more expensive than filing. Although a successful lawsuit can award you attorney fees, you will still have to pay these upfront.

Logos: Which One?

There is no definite answer. If you are worried about someone using your logo as their own, copyright is important. If you’re worried about someone using your logo or similar to steal from your brand, trademark is important. Ideally, you’d have unlimited money and would be able to obtain both.

If you’d like help deciding or filing, please feel free to contact us using the form below. Additionally, we can be reached at info@lawplusplus.com or by calling 919-912-9640.


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