Should You File a Combination Mark Logo? (Episode 36)

What is a combination mark logo, and should you use one for your online business?

In today’s episode I’m going to explain what a combination mark logo is, and my thoughts on whether you should or should not attempt to register one of these trademarks for your business when you are just starting out.

What are the different types of trademark applications?

  • Word mark – words (think Apple)
  • Design Mark – graphic design (think Nike swoosh)
  • Combination mark – combination of both (Ralph Lauren with polo player between the words)
    • Tivo
    • Burger King
    • Pizza Hut

Why would you use a combination mark?

A combination logo is perfect for a startup business that is using a fanciful or arbitrary trademark name. In these cases, the company is trying to educate the public about what they do.

With a combination logo, they can insert a graphic next to their chosen brand name to help provide context and clarity about the brand.

They are also great for established companies to help make it easier for people to recognize the brand in public and tell the story of what the brand is and what they do.

Combination logos should be visually strong and explanatory at the same time.

How to create a strong combination mark

  • Use fonts that compliment your brand. They should be easy to read and simple so as not to detract from the graphical element of the logo.
  • You want someone to be able to look at the logo and say “oh, so that is what that brand is about”.
  • When in doubt, err in favor of simplicity
  • Fresh and original. Don’t copy other logo designs. Come up with something that is uniquely yours. Make each element of the logo represent something unique about your business or the customers/clients you serve.

Drawbacks of combination marks…

  • They have to be done well or else you may be wasting your money.
  • We recommend registering a word mark FIRST so that you can be confident your chosen name is available.
  • You can’t change a design mark after you file it – you would have to file a new trademark application if you want to make changes. (Word marks CAN be changed in terms of fonts and colors)
  • You CAN change the colors of the logo so long as you don’t claim color as part of the trademark

Should YOU use a combination mark?

  • Generally speaking, not until you have registered your initial brand name first.
  • Once you have a brand name established and registered, you may want to register a logo design next.
  • Some people would argue that combination mark logos are reserved for large corporations with deep pockets. I don’t know if that is true, but if you are just starting out and funds are limited, you will get more bang for you buck, as well as additional flexibility in how to format your brand name, if you opt for a word mark.
  • Another smart option is to register a slogan or catchphrase that tells people what your brand is all about and makes you recognizable in the marketplace.


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The Biggest Takeaways

  1. A combination mark logo is a great way to educate the public about your brand.
  2. But when you are just getting started, a word mark may be a better choice.
  3. Generally, combination mark logo's are used by large corporations with big marketing budgets. But in the right situation, they can be very powerful for startup brands.

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The content of this podcast episode is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should not rely upon any information contained on this podcast episode for legal advice. Listening to The Legal Jim Podcast is not intended to and shall not create an attorney-client relationship between you and James W. Hart or The Hart Law Firm, P.A. d/b/a Hawthorn Law. Messages or other forms of communication that you transmit to this website will not create an attorney-client relationship and thus information contained in such communications may not be protected as privileged. Neither James W. Hart nor The Hart Law Firm, P.A. makes any representation, warranty, or guarantee about the accuracy of the information contained in this podcast episode or in links to other podcasts, resources or websites. This podcast is provided “as is,” does not represent that any particular outcome will result from listening to this episode. Your use listening to this podcast is at your own risk. You enjoy this podcast episode and its contents only for personal, non-commercial purposes. Neither James W. Hart, The Hart Law Firm, P.A., nor anyone acting on their behalf, will be liable under any circumstances for damages of any kind.

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