1. How to Pick a Logo Trademark. A
trademark can be a word, picture (logo) or phrase (slogan)
that you use to identity your commercial enterprise as the origin of
the goods or services you offer.
Contrary to a popular belief, you do not need to register a trademark to own a trademark. You merely need to use it. But, registrations can offer added protections. As a basic rule, unregistered trademarks are protected only where actually used. State registrations are available, but they are not very powerful and they are generally not preferred. The Federal registration is the preferred method to "own" a trademark. Federal trademarks will lock your rights nation-wide at the time of filing, even if you have not yet used your trademark. See our Eight Common Questions about Trademarks, as well as the related linked articles. Importantly, clearing a company name at the state corporation bureau will not clear a name for trademark purposes.
So, in short, a Federal trademark has three major advantages: a) timing: it locks down rights immediately upon filing, even if the trademark is not yet used; b) location: the rights are secured nation-wide; and c) searching: it places the claim into the Federal database which can be searched world-wide at http://www.uspto.gov.
Having said that as an introduction, the purpose of this short article is to acclimate you to a fundamental purpose of a logo. We are often asked about logos by our clients.
A logo is generally a picture graphic, but it can also be any stylized font or rendition of a word. Let's talk about the picture graphic.
Most basically, a pictorial logo should be relevant.
By "relevant," we mean that the logo should support the name of the company, product or service. Here's a great example of the point: Geico Insurance. We think "Geico" is somewhat naturally difficult to remember. So, here's where the logo comes in: the Gecko. The Geico Gecko (lizard). Let's play it out in a scenario: Jane is in the grocery store and sees John. Jane starts taking about her car accident and John starts talking about his car accident. They start to compare notes on their respective insurances. John tries to remember the name of his insurance company but cannot, but then he visualizes the Gecko. It may bring him to a "The name sounds like 'gecko'" or get him to remember the "Geico" name itself because of the closeness of sound, but the key is that the logo visualization supports the name that the company needs people to to remember. Other examples include "post-its" for sticky note papers and "strippers" for hook and loop fastener strips. This is very smart marketing.
Sometimes clients will have an abstract and complicated thought for a pictorial logo. This is not necessarily wrong, because everything is contextual, but remember the point. Pretty and clever are nice, but you need to sell. To sell, you need people to easily recall your identity. When a logo supports the name of the company, the results are synergistic! And, as a general rule, keep it as simple and as easy to remember as possible.
2. Domain Names. A domain name is not necessarily a trademark--in and of itself, but can be part of a trademark use. Domain names are important because of the branding and marketing tie-ins. It is often smart business to secure relevant domain names as part of trademark acquisition.
Our firm represents many commercial enterprises, and there are many domain name service providers who offer great service. Having said that, we will recommend steps to help you acquire domain names now, whether or not you plan on implementing a new website now.
If you want to have a website, you need a unique address in "cyberspace." Simple enough: if two people had the same physical mailbox street address, where would your postal mail go? Getting this unique address in cyberspace is supplied by the website hosting service (not the domain name). The website hosting service will give you a unique cyberspace address, called an "Internet Protocol" or "IP" address. This IP address is a unique number of up to 12 digits in four sections of up to three numbers in each section, like http://220.127.116.11. The number, 18.104.22.168 is our law firm's own unique address in cyberspace. (The "http://" is a special code for your Internet browser, such as Explorer; it is not part of the IP address.)
Now, if we see you on the street, and we ask you to visit our website, we would need to tell you to visit 22.214.171.124, which is difficult to remember. And, there is no reason for that difficulty in the digital millennium, right? So that's where domain names come into play. Domain names are nothing more than nicknames for IP addresses, to make them easy to remember. Zegarelli.com is nothing more than a nickname for 126.96.36.199. Moreover, we can have unlimited nicknames for 188.8.131.52, or, that is, unlimited domain names all "pointing to" 184.108.40.206. When you type in Zegarelli.com, unbeknownst to you, the behind-the-scenes cyber-powers actually just translate "zegarelli.com" into the IP address. Each nickname domain name must be registered by an official domain name registrar, which is what keeps everything organized in cyberspace: if two people could have the same nickname, it would be just as bad as two people with the same IP address, or the same postal mailbox street address.
So, to recap, there are two issues: a) the website (IP address) hosting; and b) the domain name registrar hosting. It may get confusing because many domain name registrars (the people that acquire your domain names for you) may also offer to host your website IP address.
From a trademark perspective, it is the domain name that needs to support the trademark. For example, for "Zegarelli Law Group," "zegarelli.com" is naturally intuitive. The ".com" extension may make the domain name technically unique, but does not generally make it distinct from a trademark perspective. For example, "zegarelli.com" and "zegarelli.net," if both in the legal services business, might still cause confusion, even if pointing to different IP addresses by different law firms.
As a result, it is generally smart business (particularly for only $10 per year), to secure as many domain names as possible that might be confusingly similar. This includes being pro-active to secure domain names that have common typographical errors.
Again, the website is actually at an IP address, hosted by an IP or website hosting service. Any number of domain names can point to that same IP address.
Even if you are not going to launch a website now, the important point to remember is to acquire all of the domain names now. This takes the domain name off of the market and you can implement the website later.
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