Logo trademark vs Word trademark - why trademark a logo or a name?

Logo trademark vs Word trademark - why trademark a logo or a name?

  • 20 April, 2024
  • Nyall Engfield

Logo trademark vs Word trademark - why trademark a logo or a name?

Registering a trademark is a crucial step for businesses to protect their brand identity, and deciding between registering a logo trademark or a word trademark can significantly impact how effectively a brand is protected and recognized. Each type of trademark—logo and word—offers distinct benefits.

Practice tip: Each must be filed as a separate application with the USPTO.

Focusing on logo trademarks, let's explore the advantages of registering a logo compared to a word mark in the context of brand differentiation, legal protection, marketing, and global brand strategy.

Visual Impact and Brand Recognition

One of the most significant benefits of a logo trademark is its visual impact. Unlike a word mark, which consists purely of text, a logo can incorporate a unique combination of designs, colors, and styles that can be instantly recognizable even without text. This makes logos incredibly powerful tools for brand recognition. For example, the logos of companies like Nike, Apple, McDonald's and Coca-Cola are recognized globally with just a glance, often without the need for accompanying text. This immediate visual recognition can be a critical factor in crowded markets where distinguishing one’s brand from competitors is crucial.

Simple is best and people don't like new identities - logo insights revealed - Design Week

Enhanced Legal Protection

From a legal perspective, a logo trademark can provide broader protection against infringement. A logo, due to its unique design elements, is less likely to be replicated without clear infringement. This complexity and uniqueness make it easier to legally protect against copycats and unauthorized use. When a logo is trademarked, protection isn’t limited to the name or words but extends to the stylization, colors, and graphic elements. This is particularly beneficial in industries where visual differentiation is key to brand identity.

Marketing and Brand Consistency

Logos serve as the cornerstone of a brand's visual identity. They can be adapted across various media formats and marketing materials while maintaining consistency. A logo trademark ensures that every instance of its use reinforces the brand identity, contributing to a cohesive marketing strategy. For instance, a logo can be effectively used in digital media, print, merchandise, and packaging, maintaining brand consistency across different platforms which can enhance consumer loyalty and brand recall.

Eventually, the shape or design of the logo itself, without the wording, comes to stand for the brand in the mind of a consumer.

Emotional Connection

The design of a logo can evoke emotions and associations that words alone might not convey. A well-designed logo can tell a story or communicate the ethos of a brand without needing explanation. This emotional connection can drive customer loyalty and preference. For instance, a logo might use green color schemes and leaf motifs to emphasize eco-friendliness, or bold, angular designs to communicate strength and reliability. Facebook's use of blue is used to indicate trustworthiness, while McDonald's yellow pops quickly to mind and increases recall.

Global Brand Strategy

Logos often transcend linguistic barriers, making them exceptionally useful in global markets. A logo that is visually appealing and culturally neutral can be recognized by consumers worldwide, regardless of language differences. This universal appeal is invaluable for brands aiming for international reach, as it reduces the need for different branding strategies across countries and cultures. This global recognizability can significantly simplify international marketing and enhance brand presence in diverse markets. Using international trademark filing systems like the Madrid Protocol can help with maintaining consistency of brand protection internationally.

Distinctiveness in Legal Proceedings

In legal contexts, particularly in trademark disputes, the distinctiveness of a logo can be an advantage. Logos are often considered more distinctive than word marks because they are less likely to be similar to other trademarks. This uniqueness can make it easier to prove a case of infringement or dilution in court, as the visual elements can be clearly differentiated from those of another brand.

Adaptability and Future-Proofing

A logo can be designed to be adaptable and flexible, allowing it to evolve with the brand without losing its core identity. This flexibility can be critical as companies grow and their branding needs change. Updating a logo can be less disruptive than changing a brand name, which might require re-establishing brand recognition and consumer trust from scratch.

Practice Tip: When the logo is updated and changed materially, a new trademark for the updated logo should be filed.

Competitive Advantage

In sectors where visual branding is paramount, such as fashion, retail, and consumer goods, a logo can provide a competitive edge. It allows a product to be identified at a glance, which is crucial in environments like store shelves or online platforms where quick visual impressions drive consumer decisions. This visual appeal can directly influence purchasing behavior, making products more attractive and easily recognizable compared to those branded with only a word mark.

Intellectual Property Portfolio

Adding a logo to a company’s intellectual property portfolio enhances its value. A trademarked logo can be an asset that increases in value over time as the brand grows. This asset can be licensed, sold, or used as collateral in financial transactions, providing additional financial benefits to the company. Moreover, owning a variety of trademarks, including both logos and word marks, diversifies the legal protections and potential revenue streams available through intellectual property management.

Efficiency in Branding Efforts

Logos can streamline the branding efforts of a company. Because they convey a lot more than just a brand name, they can reduce the need for extensive marketing texts and explanations in advertising and promotional materials. This efficiency in communication not only saves on marketing costs but also ensures that the brand's message is delivered effectively and swiftly to the target audience.

Enhanced Online Presence

In the digital age, having a visually compelling logo can significantly boost a brand’s online presence. Logos are crucial for social media, where visuals dominate and users often scroll through content quickly. A distinctive logo can catch the eye faster than text, making it more likely that consumers will notice and remember the brand. This visual recognition can be pivotal in driving traffic to a brand’s website and social media pages, enhancing digital marketing efforts.

Protection Across Categories

Registering a logo as a trademark can also offer protection across multiple product categories and services. Unlike word marks, which might be limited to a particular class of goods or services, a logo can be registered for a broad range of classes if it is used across different categories. This broad protection is beneficial for brands that span multiple industries or plan to expand into new markets.

Strategic Brand Extensions

For brands considering extensions or diversifications, a logo provides a visual link between different product lines and services, maintaining brand coherence. This coherence ensures that the equity built in one part of the business can be leveraged in others, potentially reducing the marketing investment needed to launch new products under the same brand umbrella.

Benefits to a Word Trademark instead of Logo

Here's why a word trademark might be considered more valuable than a logo trademark in certain contexts:

  1. Versatility: A word trademark offers more versatility in terms of branding and marketing. It can be easily incorporated into various forms of communication, including advertising, packaging, websites, and social media without the need for modification. This versatility allows for consistent branding across different mediums and platforms.

  2. Recognition: Words are often more memorable and easier to recognize than complex logos. A strong word trademark can quickly become associated with the products or services it represents, leading to increased brand recognition and recall among consumers.

  3. Globalization: In an increasingly globalized marketplace, word trademarks have an advantage over logo trademarks because they are not limited by language or cultural barriers. A word trademark can be easily translated and adapted for use in different countries and regions, facilitating international expansion and market penetration.

  4. Trademark Protection: Word trademarks typically offer broader protection than logo trademarks because they cover the specific words or phrases themselves rather than the visual design elements. This means that competitors are less likely to infringe upon a word trademark by using similar words or phrases, providing greater legal protection for the brand.

  5. Brand Identity: For some companies, the brand identity is closely tied to the name itself rather than a visual symbol. A strong word trademark can convey the essence of the brand and its values more effectively than a logo, especially if the name has a unique or distinctive quality.

  6. Adaptability: Brands evolve over time, and a word trademark allows for greater adaptability to changes in the market, consumer preferences, and business strategies. Companies can reposition or rebrand themselves more easily by retaining the word trademark while updating other elements of their branding, such as logos and visual identity.

  7. Searchability: word trademarks are easier to search for and avoid than logos. This is not only true when you are filing an application, but will effect others who may unwittingly adopt some features of your logo. But a search including design codes will help to ensure effective search results.

However, it's important to note that the value of a trademark ultimately depends on how well it resonates with consumers and how effectively it represents the brand in the marketplace. In many cases, a combination of both word and logo trademarks is ideal for building a strong and memorable brand identity, however each would be a separate trademark application.


Registering a logo trademark offers a multitude of benefits over a word trademark, particularly in terms of visual impact, legal protection, marketing effectiveness, and global strategy. The visual nature of a logo, coupled with its ability to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers, makes it a powerful tool for building and protecting a brand's identity. For businesses aiming to establish a strong, recognizable brand, investing in a logo trademark is often a strategic decision that can pay dividends in both the short and long term, providing a solid foundation for building a lasting relationship with consumers worldwide.

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