Every artistic creation that you originate is, at the moment you create it and draw or write it down, protected by copyright (there are exceptions – see the article Who Owns the Copyright?) You don’t have to register anything for this to happen in the UK and US (although some countries do have slightly different policies on it so check with your local Intellectual Property government office). The international symbol, the ‘c’ in a circle should be put next to any work with the year and your name or company, ie. (c)2011 Eldamar ltd. This lets the world know that it belongs to you.
But it can still happen, you come across another company using a logo like yours or using your strapline or text from an article. This is what’s called ‘passing off’. The law sides with the party that can prove that they got there first. This is why songwriters protect their songs (both words and music) and authors protect their manuscripts by some method that will prove the origination date in a court of law. This is often done by sending a copy of the work to oneself by registered post, or by keeping a copy in a bank safe or other legal body (an annual subscription is required for this).
Logos, use of colours and straplines can be protected in a different way by registering them. Every logo used commercially is obviously a trademark and every logo can have TM in superscript applied next to it to notify others that the logo is in use as a trademark. There is no legal obligation attached to the TM mark. It does nothing except notify others that the logo is in use. Registering a logo as a trademark is different. This is what gives a logo value as it is protected by law in every territory and category it is registered in. There are many rules to abide by. Many logos can not be registered if they are already in common usage or involve certain superlatives. Costs can be anything from £250 to more than £16000 depending on categories and territories the logo is registered in.
Once registered, the logo is accompanied by the R in a circle device. It is of course illegal to use the (R) symbol if it has not been registered. Registering happens only through your government’s Intellectual Property Office (in the UK this was previously known as the Patent Office). An agent or solicitor can process the registration on your behalf but get advice directly from your country’s Intellectual Property Office first to learn the procedure as they can often advise without you having to spend a large amount of money only to find your application is unsuitable.
The UK Intellectual Property Office is a great resource where you explore registrations as well a other forms of protection such as registered designs (for product designs) and patents (for inventions) as well as trademarks.
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