When used correctly, logos are a big piece of your brand identity. They make you recognizable in the marketplace and invoke goodwill from customers and clients. You want to make sure that you are selecting a logo that will have longevity and inspire brand loyalty. You should also select a design that can be protected and enforced with trademark protection. You can do that by keeping a few things in mind while you are brainstorming different logo designs.

    Noted graphic designer Paul Rand was quoted as having said, “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand,” and we couldn’t agree more. And because your brand is at the heart of your corporate image, how you choose to represent it is a weighty decision. It can be a driver of culture and often serves as your identity to your clients and fans. It makes sense that you would want to design a logo that is both easily identifiable but also speaks to who you are as a brand.


    How to select a great logo?

    You should take your time when you create a new logo. You will want to obtain a trademark registration for this logo so you can protect it and act effectively against others using confusingly similar logos, increasing the value of your brand.  Based on Canadian trademark law, here are some recommendations on how to select a great logo.


    1 | Beware of prior confusingly similar logos!

    Your logo helps you stand out amongst your competitors so you want it to be easily identifiable and unique. Before you adopt your logo as a trademark, it is important that you investigate thoroughly that no prior rights exist as these may be an obstacle for the registration and use of your logo. You do not want to invest in adopting a logo and then having to rebrand because someone else was already using it.

    Let your trademark agent do a trademark availability search for the logo so they can flag any confusingly similar logos in your field and so that you’re aware of any potential risks.

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    2 | Don’t make your logo too simple or clearly descriptive

    To be able to register a trademark, your trademark needs to be inherently distinctive. When people see your logo, you want them to recognize that this logo is your logo.

    Logos that are too simple or descriptive are typically not registrable because they are unable to distinguish themselves from competitors in the same category. Even if you get a trademark registration for a logo with a low degree of distinctiveness, you will likely not be able to avoid use of the logo by other people in your industry. That does not mean that descriptive logos cannot be registered as trademarks at all, but they typically succeed due to intensive use, vast market penetration and global attention and those are of course very limited (for example ‘PIZZA HUT’).

    The strongest trademarks are original logos, unrelated to the goods and services.

        • Avoid generic or clearly descriptive designs. A logo consisting of an image that is typically used or is describing your goods and services you are selling under the mark is not registrable, unless you make the logo somewhat special and fanciful. Think about an ordinary presentation of grapes and vine leaves for wine or orchard scenes for fruit.
        • Avoid ordinary logos consisting of 1 or 2 letters. You might be tempted to create a logo with the first letter or initials of your company name. Keep in mind that simple stylized logos including a single letter might be considered not inherently distinctive because it is likely that others in your industry need to use this letter for their business.
          A logo with 2 letters might be registrable except if these are commonly used in your industry of goods and services. Think of “GT” in the vehicle industry.
        • Avoid simple logos consisting of descriptive words. To benefit from trademark protection, logos need to be unique. Logos that consist of simple stylized words may not be registrable if the words are generic or description. For example:
          • The words clearly describe or name the goods and services or their origin (for example: “Fruit” for fruit, “Orange” for orange juice, “Italy” for shoes etc). This also counts for abbreviated descriptive words!
          • They are laudatory words, for example “ultimate”, “quality”, “value”, “the best”
          • They provide generic information about goods and services (e.g. CONTENTS ARE HOT for takeout restaurant services etc.)
          • They consist of internet TLDs and URLs (e.g. BUYPOSTERS.COM)

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    3 | Own the rights to your logo!

    If you wish to hire a branding or marketing agency, or maybe just your friend, to create your logo, make sure to transfer the related copyrights and design rights to yourself/your company to avoid any future conflicts!

    Using the (TM) and (R) symbols shows that you are asserting your rights to this logo and have taken the appropriate steps to secure it. You can use the (TM) symbol even if your trademark registration is still under examination.

    Now that you’ve done all the leg work to make sure that your logo design meets the above criteria and is appropriately protected – it’s equally important to protect your logo from misuse/overuse by others which could cause confusion to your clients or dilute the power of your brand. Regular monitoring is a proactive measure that can save you from potential future headaches.


    Do you want to create a new logo for your company or specific product brand? The trademark experts at Stratford Intellectual Property can assist you by assessing the general registrability of your trademark and offer recommendations for your trademark strategy through trademark availability searches.

    About Kim: A registered trademark agent in Canada, Kim is an IP Specialist with a unique combination of skills, education, and assets with a drive for success and a passion for Intellectual Property. Working with growing organizations for many years she’s honed her ability to be both creative and strategic with IP solutions and strategy implementation plans.

    She specializes in IP analytics and Trademark Strategy and Prosecution. Before becoming an IP specialist at Stratford, she practiced law in Belgium for 5 years. Kim holds an LLB and LLM in law from Belgium and completed trademark studies at McGill University. 

    To connect with Kim, send her an email or follow her on LinkedIn.