Can you trademark a font?
No, you cannot trademark a font, but there are other protections for typeface designs. Generally speaking, a font does not qualify for trademark protection as it is considered a specific product. They can, however, potentially be protected by copyrights under copyright law, especially when considering the unique artistic design of the letters themselves.
If you are a graphic designer who has created a specific font, that particular font is considered to be the product that you are offering. Trademarks do not cover specific products, but rather the way that those products are branded and marketed to the product’s users and consumers.
Trademarking a Font Name
In terms of trademark law, if you seek to protect a font from misuse or abuse by a competitor, then you may trademark the name of the font and logos in which you've utilized the font. For example, the name "Times New Roman" is trademarked but not the design. This is known as a design mark, part of a broader trademark rights strategy.
A product’s name serves to differentiate the product from other products available in a particular market, therefore a font name should distinguish it from other available fonts. A font’s name must be unique and distinct in order to qualify for the protection of a trademark.
It's important to remember the trademark rights that will come with protecting your font design. A trademark will only cover a font or logo design for the products or services with which they are used. For example, you may trademark a font in relation to beauty products, but that would not cover using the same logo for food and beverages and wouldn't stop a competitor from using it in a different market.
Design patent applications are another avenue to consider for fonts in designs. A single design patent can offer protection and cover the unique design elements of the font, distinguishing it from others. A design patent will be granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as long as it's considered distinguishable and novel compared to existing ones. The U.S. allows multiple typeface sets of letters, numbers, and symbols, and the font size is unlimited. A design patent for a font design will be protected for 15 years.
Fonts Within Logos
You may also potentially be able to trademark a font design if it's incorporated into a logo. For example, "Coca-Cola" is trademarked in a stylized font as is "BARBIE", which are both easily identifiable by their distinct font designs. These font designs will specifically be protected in the markets they're related to.
How to Trademark a Font
To prevent Trademark Infringement, it is advisable to conduct a trademark search before filing a trademark application. This ensures that the font name or design mark you wish to protect is not already in use. Furthermore, a license can be obtained to use existing fonts, adding another layer of protection and clarity in the use of typefaces in designs.
If you have created a font that you are interested in protecting, it is advisable to consult with a trademark attorney. Contact us today to discuss the protection options available to you.
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