Ownership of a brand often includes several trademark claims, such as a claim to a logo, a claim to a slogan, a claim to a design, or a claim solely to the words.  When considering federal registration, deciding what version of your trademark you want to register can be confusing.  To make this decision easier, we provide the below explanation of trademark formats for you to consider.

Word Marks

Plainly stated, the registration of word marks includes a claim for the standardized characters of a word, term, phrase, acronym or letters.  For example, if you were struck with the urge to search the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) website for our “DUNLAP BENNETT & LUDWIG” trademark, you would find that the firm’s federally-registered wordmark is displayed without any distinctive font, color, or stylization.  When a trademark owner registers a word mark, it not only protects the word(s) themselves, but allows the registration notice to be applied to any size, font, color, or other basic elements used to personalize the mark.  A key feature of trademark registration is that a registration can generally last forever, so long as the trademark meets the maintenance/renewal requirements.  Since brands sometimes change in style and font over the years, the word format is mostly preferred because, unlike other trademark formats, the registration can remain active even when updates are made to the font or style of the mark.

Design Marks

To the contrary, a design mark protects – you guessed it – the design of your mark.  So again, if you were to search for other marks owned by Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig on the USPTO website, you would find that the design is also registered.  This registration claim covers the “look and feel” of the brand design.  Therefore, if a competitor decided to adopt an identical design, but switched out the letters “DBL” with the letters “XYZ”, while they may try to claim that no conflict exists because DBL and XYZ are different letters, the adoption of a similar design would be a trademark violation.  When registering a design, unlike the word mark, if you make updates or modifications that differ (even slightly) from the version originally registered, you may be putting the registration at risk for cancellation.   In today’s mobile and computer app-driven world, registering the distinctive design associated with your business can be an invaluable investment.


Word and Design Combination

Combining both word and design elements in a single registration can be a cost-effective measure and provide multiple trademark claims in a single filing.  In cases where a trademark includes highly descriptive or generic wording, applying for registration under a Word and Design claim can provide an avenue to ultimately allow you to display the federal registration notice (aka the Circle R or ®) with overall Word and Design trademark.  Similar to the design mark, if you make updates or modifications to the Word and Design mark that differs (even slightly) from the version originally registered, you may be putting the registration at risk for cancellation.

If you need guidance on navigating the trademark process, give the intellectual property law experts at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig a call today.

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Posted in: Intellectual Property - Trademarks