Apart from trademark protection, what kind of intellectual property protection may logos have under US law?

Could a logo be considered a graphical "work", therefore copyrightable? If it could, how? By measuring the level of creativity used for creating it? For example, how would creativity be measured for a logo created using a slightly modified typeface, as opposed to a logo drawn in an entirely original way? Would the former be copyrightable given that copyright doesn't protect typefaces?

Could a logo be considered an industrial design? If it could, would the concept of "author", as in the specially ordered or commissioned designer, even be relevant? Who would own the industrial design rights to the logo then?

1 Answer 1


Trademark can protect a designed logo as well as a "short phrase" or title, it must be used in commerce and be renewed every 10 years, but if so renewed can continue forever.

Copyright cannot protect most "short phrases" or titles, but it can protect an original design, such as a logo. It expires 70 years after the death of the original creator (different for a work for hire, 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first).

A design patent can protect an ornamental design that is part of a functional item (such as the shape/design of the CocaCola bottle for instance) And lasts for 14 years from issuance. Many forms of industrial design would find protection here, such as perhaps a drinking glass with a particular shape and ornamentation.

So to answer your question:

If your logo is an original design used in commerce, and not "just a phrase" in a particular font, then the design can be protected by copyright, and also protected by trademark.

If the logo is part of the design of a functional item, you could likely get a design patent, but that would not necessarily be useful, as the design would already be protected by trademark and copyright.

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