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Standard Character mark vs Design Mark

Trademark applicants often ask what is a standard character mark? Further, applicants ask what is a design mark? Hence, differentiating standard character mark and design mark is crucial for registration purposes. First, the trademark applicant needs to understand the nature of their brand and serving industry. Second, based on the demand and forecast of their brand, create a mark that is unique and represents their values. Finally, the applicant needs to decide on how to present the mark. For that reason, they need to select the type of marks such as standard character mark or design mark. Upon registration, one type of mark provides more protection than the other. Below we explained the key differences with illustrative examples. 

Standard Character Mark

A mark including: 

  • Any word, name, letter, number, or a combination of them;

  • when not claiming any particular font style, size or color;

  • that is used as a source identifier to goods or services is called a standard character mark. 

Standard Character Mark is the broadest and most common form of federal trademark protection at USPTO. There is a misconception that the standard mark only protects the visual presentation of the registered trademark at USPTO. That is not true. Standard character trademark registration protects many variations of the mark. 

Standard character mark necessity?

The trademark owner can sue anyone who infringes on the mark while using a variation of colors, font style and size. The trademark owner may use the above-specified variations of standard character with the registered marks. As a brand owner, the trademark applicant need to maximize federal protection through standard character mark registration.

Before you apply for trademark registration, you need to identify the type of mark you are planning to register. However, sometimes you may be restricted by your selection of mark because it closely matches another registered or common law mark. That’s why comprehensive trademark search is the most important and consequential first step before applying for registration of this type of mark.

Examples of Standard Character Mark

Standard Character Mark Example 1

Standard Character Mark Example 2

The above examples include Nike, Inc. corporation standard marks. Nike trademark is an example of business name registration. Whereas, Nike track club is an example of a service mark for retail store services. 10 R is a Nike owned trademark for clothing goods. Nike has an extensive standard character trademark portfolio. 

If you would like to build your brand, then the starting point would be to get a trademark for a business name. Later, as your brand, products, and services diversify, you can apply for those standard marks. The availability of standard character trademark depends on a comprehensive trademark search

Design Mark

The design mark definition includes the following. A mark including: 

  • A design or words combined with a design;

  • is displayed in a particular font style, size or color; and

  • That is used to identify as a source identifier to goods or services is called a design mark or stylized logo mark. 

If your style-related need and look is definite and particular in nature, then applying for a USPTO trademark stylized mark is a good option. However, you should note that the standard character trademark provides the broadest protection. This is true in the situation of displaying standard characters in a particular font style, size or color.

Types of design mark

There are essentially four variations of design marks or stylized mark. They include the following: 

  • Only Design.

  •  Design plus words, letters, or numbers.

  •  Stylized format of Letters, words, or numbers.

When design mark is needed?

Sometimes, you need to apply for a design trademark even though you may have a different registered standard character mark. You may want to protect this design variation because the consumer identifies your product by this design variation. A few other times, design marks branding, and association is highly important in competitive industries. 

Stylized mark search is complicated, and you need a comprehensive search before you apply for registration. 

Once you register your mark, use the mark the way you registered it. Do not make alternations in your use of the mark. This is particularly evident in words combined with a stylized type mark.

Examples of Design Mark

Design plus work Mark Example 1
Design Mark Example
Design plus work Mark Example 2

The above images include Nike, Inc. design marks or stylized marks. The first image is an example of a word plus design mark. Word plus design marks are increasingly becoming popular for businesses to capture their vision and consumer affinity for the product. The second image is design-mark only, showing shoe with disclaimer as a dotted line. Third image is also a word plus design mark. This design shows Nike brand affinity for Golf related goods.

In certain industries, visual presentation of the design makes a lasting impression in the customer’s mind. For start-ups and other businesses, it is crucial to have a design brand portfolio to create brand affinity.

Composite marks

Another type of mark that needs to be mentioned is a composite mark. Composite marks can be defined as the following:

  • Word combined with a design; OR

  • Just words that have separable word elements; OR

  • Just design elements that are separable. 

The separable element may sometimes need to be disclaimed in trademark applications when they don’t function as source identifier. 

Consult us for trademark law matters

If you would like to register a standard character mark, then please check the below buttons for service information. The first one is word or service mark registration and search package. Similarly, if you would like to register a name and logo (or design) mark, then please check the second button. You may also check other trademark FAQs to resolve some of the questions related to trademark attorney services.

Trademark Registration Package

Name AND Logo (or design) Registration Package

Page Author: Bharath Konda, Esq.

 Bharath Konda is a trademark attorney. He has a law license in Minnesota and the District of Columbia. He provides trademark registration services for individuals and businesses. You can check the Bharath Konda attorney profile page at MN state Bar Association. Further, feel free to check the attorney profile on legal information retrieval websites such as Avvo and Justia. Some of the sample trademark attorneys answered questions are on platforms such as Justia ask a lawyer platform and lawyers (dot) com platform.

6 thoughts on “Standard Character mark vs Design Mark”

  1. This is a good side-by-side comparison of standard character mark vs design mark for trademark purposes. Explanatory image based standard character mark and design mark examples is easy to understand. Your emphasis on getting a standard character mark is illustrative. I am looking forward to more trademark related articles from Bharath Konda, Esq.

  2. Easy to understand explanation of the complex trademark types. This page answered lot of my questions about standard character mark. I appreciate posting of this legal information for free on this website.

  3. Joan, I am happy that I was able to clarify your questions about standard character mark. When I wrote this legal article my main criteria was to easily illustrate complex trademark topics in a simplistic manner. I will regularly update these legal topics whenever there is a change in trademark case law or a new perspective on this topic.

  4. My idea is to give a column wise comparison of standard character mark vs design mark. This comparison makes it easy for individuals who are not lawyers to check out the differences and similarities with image based examples. I will strive to add even more additional legal content on the standard character mark based on changes in trademark law.

  5. This article is well written and to the point on standard character mark. I appreciate that you are providing all this information for free to the public.

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