Graphic design is an exciting blend of creative talents and branding principles.
It’s where artistry and strategy come together to bring brands to life, through logos, titles, headers, and much more.
But, the job isn’t always fun.
Sometimes graphic designers have to go to bat for their brands.
This happens when someone outside of their client list or company tries to pass a trademark design as their own.
Thankfully, there are precautions and corrective procedures in place to protect designs.
Here’s everything you need to know about trademarking.
1. You Are Responsible for Your Trademark
Your work is technically protected under copyright when you put it in print.
But someone who steals it can “technically” claim innocent infringement. In other words, they can say they were ignorant of trademark and copyright limitations.
This is why registering for a trademark is such a valuable investment.
Trademarks protect your brand from being diluted when someone tries to take your work. It is not just about the creative design, but the strength of a business.
If you work for one employer or freelance with different clients, clarify who owns what. You may pass off a design for someone else’s use, but you still have the right to claim the work in your portfolio.
2. You Have Options
There are federal registration opportunities in addition to local options.
Local registrations have limitations across state lines.
They won’t always protect a design you made in Georgia for a client in Colorado. But they generally cost less and are faster to obtain than federal registration.
The federal process is worth the extra effort, though. It gives you exclusive national rights, similar to patenting an idea.
However, you decide to register, be sure to use symbols to represent your trademark design.
The TM symbol is the most basic option available and you should use it every time you finish a design, unless you federally register, in which case you can use (R). IGERENT can show you how.
The (R) is the exclusive symbol for federally registered designs. It’s like insurance against anyone who tries to steal your work.
3. Catching a Copycat
As much as you try to prevent it, someone will always try to swipe a design.
Do an online search for your recent and past work every once in a while. You can cover your bases and see if a trademark design ended up where it shouldn’t have.
If you do come across a situation that needs attention, contact your intellectual property lawyer or tell your employer, and they will contact the business’s lawyer.
A lawyer will assess the situation as a trademark dilution or infringement, the two basic realms of trademark design.
They deal with assessing consumer confusion and brand integrity, but each has different qualifications and penalties.
Building a Beautiful Trademark Design
Thinking of entering the tech field with your design skills?
Always cover your bases throughout the design process.
Do a clearance search when you first get an idea to make sure it isn’t too similar to something that already exists.
Although, there’s nothing wrong with using existing brands for inspiration.
Get your creative juices flowing and check out what Microsoft can teach you about computer logo design.