What Things Should Bloggers Trademark?
With blogging’s increase in popularity, there are more questions to ask about how to protect your rights to all of the content on your blog. One big question is “What things should a blogger trademark?”
A blogger with a monetized blog should trademark their blog name and any images or designs that distinguish and identify their blog. A trademark isn’t legally required of any blogger, but it can help protect the blogger’s rights regarding ownership and usage of the titles and images.
While a trademark isn’t legally required of any blogger, serious bloggers should consider trademarking some features of their blog branding. Even if you haven’t monetized your blog, you should still be familiar with trademarking recommendations.
There are around 600 million blogs on the internet, each trying to find its own unique place on the web. (source) When competition is that high, it’s important to protect yourself and make sure you have something unique to offer. If your blog is monetized, you can, and should trademark the title. The first step to trademarking the name of your blog is choosing a good name that is unique and distinct.
To trademark your blog title, you will want to apply for a wordmark. When you register a wordmark, you are able to use the word or phrase trademarked in any typeface and stylization. This gives you more freedom than a design mark which reserves rights for a specific design or lettering style.
While there are so many blogs and article websites on the internet, there is also a wealth of topics that each focuses on. With the number of topics, blogs can focus on, choosing a unique name is a little easier. Make sure your title is unique and not too descriptive. A descriptive title, such as “Neat Embroidery Blog” has less of a chance of making it through registration than something a bit more unique like, “Susan’s Strings and Things.”
Distinguishing Designs and Images
Any image you intend to register as a trademark will need to be registered as a design mark. A design mark can include a stylized version of your blog title, a picture and lettering combo, or a design on its own. Once you trademark your design, you will have the rights to it and be able to enforce those rights.
Most bloggers have a logo-type design or image that they use frequently on their blog. This image should be your first priority when it comes to trademark registration. In most cases, this will be the only design mark you will need to obtain.
There may be other images that define your blog, but it’s not too crucial to trademark images other than the main logo. While you want to retain rights to the distinct appearance of your blog, you can’t protect everything. When it comes to images and designs in your blog theme, there isn’t a need to trademark them. Copying isn’t the same as infringement, so your theme can still be copied by other bloggers without any issues.
In some cases, colors or color schemes have been trademarked by businesses, but protecting the colors on your blog isn’t necessary and it can be a hassle. Because the internet is so diverse, it may be difficult to qualify for trademark registration on a color on a blog. As a blogger, you don’t have to worry about people making a connection to a product or service through color or design. It’s good to remind people of your blog with color, but it’s not necessary to protect the color legally.
In addition to that, you don’t have to worry about copyrighting your small images and features, or even your icons. If you have rights and ownership of your icons and other graphics on your blog site, you likely won’t have to worry about infringement on your part or others.
What else should I trademark?
For most bloggers, the answer is nothing else. However, there are certain circumstances that call for an extra trademark. Blogs today have become their own distinct service. Blogs offer followers easy, accessible information. A blog may need to differentiate itself even further with additional trademarks. For example, if you use an unusual distinct phrase on your blog all of the time, you can trademark it as long as the phrase is unique and directly relates to your blog and your blog’s branding.
You may have images on your blog that you use at the beginning of each post as a signoff or in another frequent way that should be trademarked. To determine if you should trademark an image, ask the question, “If another blogger used a similar image, would it affect the amount of traffic coming to my blog?” If another blog’s use of your marks would harm the unique image of your blog, you might want to consider getting a registered trademark.
If you have additional logo-type images, these can be trademarked as well, but bloggers should avoid having too many distinguishing graphics. Having one logo that is a distinct reminder of the blog to readers is ideal.
What happens if I don’t trademark my blog?
If you don’t trademark your blog name and your logo, you could be at risk of infringement. You could accidentally use a logo design that is too similar to another blog logo out there and have action taken against you.
On the other hand, if someone else tries to use your image without permission, you may not have as much credibility when it comes to fighting for the rights to the image. Owners of marks and designs still have rights whether or not they have registered their marks for a trademark. If you have complete ownership of an image you can gain rights to the image and prove rights to the image by using it. As you use an image, you gain credibility with the image.
While you still have a right to the image without a trademark registration, having the registration gives you a lot more legal credibility when fighting for those rights.
Trademarks and merchandise from the blog
Trademarks become especially important when you start selling products and merchandise on the blog. When you begin selling products, you need to register your trademark under a different class. When you register for a trademark on your blog name or logo, you are generally registering under the class online publications, but selling merchandise falls under a different class. If you use your trademark on merchandise without trademarking it in the new class or checking for infringements beforehand, you could face penalties for infringement if your mark is too similar to another registered mark.
If you aren’t yet selling merchandise, but you hope to in the future, make sure you check your trademark for availability in both classes, online publications, and whichever class your merchandise falls under. You may also apply for a trademark with an “intent to use” application. This allows you to reserve the name or image without having used it to establish your rights to it.
Copyrights on the blog
Some blogs are created so an author or artist can share original work. If this is the case with your blog, you may be working with copyrights and trademarks.
As a blogger, you should get a trademark on any image, phrase, or word that represents and distinguishes your blog brand. A trademark is usually a small phrase or single work that will be used frequently, like a blog title. When you trademark an image, you are claiming rights as it is, not the concept or story behind it. If you have a character that helps with branding, you might want to consider copyright on the works rather than a trademark.
Copyright offers protection for original work. A piece of art or a work of fiction should be protected under copyright.
While your unique work is protected under copyright common law, some works should be considered for copyright registration in order to preserve your rights to them.
For example, if you have a blog where you share instructional posts about various topics, but you use images of a little hand-drawn character, you can apply to get registered copyright on your character, so no other blogs can use your little guy. (source)