Hartman Global Intellectual Property: Protecting the Images and Icons that Drive Branding in the Modern World

Hartman Global Intellectual Property: Protecting the Images and Icons that Drive Branding in the Modern World

In the ever-changing world of how companies market and brand themselves, protecting your identity, your logo and what makes you or your company unique is incredibly important. More and more our eyes are being drawn to logos, icons and graphics from companies that consumers have come to recognize and trust.

Having those images protected by trademark and registration means that consumers know what they’re getting and who they’re getting it from, without any chance of brand confusion.

“Now, studies show that in less than half a second we are recognizing, deciding and acting upon what we’re seeing whether it’s a brand name or a logo,” said Hartman Global Intellectual Property Law’s, Domenica Hartman.

“There is an instant on or off, a sort of thumbs up or thumbs down, reaction when we see those brands, logos, or icons, which have become even more prominent now when we’re talking about identifying companies and their products,” Hartman said. “It’s absolutely essential that a business owner or individual, before they go forward with any trademark, must make sure that it is not in use by anyone else for similar good and services.”

For entrepreneurs, searching to make sure that their ‘mark’, brand name, or logo isn’t being used to sell something similar, particularly in a nearby geographic area.

“Now that everything is online entrepreneurs can achieve about 90% certainty when initially choosing a mark by googling the trademark and going to the Patent and Trademark Office website, www.uspto.gov, and doing a trademark search there,” said Hartman. “However, before their final choice of trademark, they ought to have a full trademark clearance search performed.”

Hartman spoke about the recent rise in branding images over text Images, such as logos and icons. “Branding by image has just absolutely skyrocketed,” she said.

However, images aren’t always the easiest things for an entrepreneur to search, though, and therefore Hartman does not recommend entrepreneurs move forward with images without a full search. “It’s not that simple if it’s a design, an image or a logo. To search a ‘swoosh’ or a mermaid isn’t that easy.”

“Studies have shown that our brains are being formulated to recognize images rather than words, and to act upon those images rather quickly. You can’t stress enough how branding, just in the last 10 years, has become branding by image. It’s really become so significant due to the use of icons on our phones and icons on every screen that we’re swiping.”

Hartman has seen an increase in the amount of companies wanting their image-based branding to be trademarked and protected.

“Characteristics of a good trademark are a mark that is ‘not merely descriptive,’” Hartman said. “Again you’re not going to get protection for something like ‘Hot Coffee’. You want it to be distinctive and something almost fanciful. Uber, for example, is very memorable and distinctive. The stylized ‘U’ is a distinctive design and it’s probably on half of the world’s phones.”

“You go from Doris Day singing about Chevy’s in the 1960’s and those taglines which used to be so prominent. They’ve lost out a bit, when you look at the numbers, to these images and icons. Really, I see it in my practice, of course, but we see it in life. Twenty years ago who would’ve ever thought a mermaid would’ve been used to sell coffee and nowhere on there does it say the word, ‘Starbucks.’ I thought when I saw that, ‘Wow! We are becoming so image driven.’”

Younger generations are even more image-driven as opposed to a collection of words or simply a brand name. Hartman advises companies to obviously protect their brand and all of the wording associated with a company but to also see how important it is to protect the images, icons and designs that have become such an integral part of brand identity.