Protection of a logo: trademark or copyright?

A logo often represents the company’s image. It is at the centre of the marketing strategies and is found in most companies’ communication elements, as well as on their products. If well used, it can have a great economic value. It is therefore important to secure it. What means of protection are available to creators? Trademark law and copyright law, two branches of intellectual property law, should be considered.

  1. Protection by trademark law.

A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the products and services of a company from those of competitors. A logo may be protected by trademark law since it can be used to identify the origin of a company’s products and services. It is known as a “figurative” or “semi-figurative” mark (i.e., a mixture of figurative and verbal elements). It is recognisable by the consumer.

Trademark law grants a monopoly of use on the trademark for the goods and services designated by the applicant. To be protected as a trademark, the logo must be registered with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). It must meet the conditions of distinctiveness, availability, and lawfulness. The protection is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. To find out more: trademark protection.

There are some advantages to protecting your logo under trademark law:

  • There is no need to prove that a logo is original.
  • It is easy to prove trademark rights through registration.
  • Trademark law protects against identical or similar copying by another trademark, via the possibility of opposing a trademark application or via an infringement action.
  • The trademark lasts as long as it is used and renewed.

However, there are disadvantages:

  • The conditions for filing a trademark, notably distinctiveness and availability, can be difficult to meet.
  • Protection is not automatic; a filing is required which involves the payment of fees and an examination by the INPI.
  • A trademark is subject to an obligation of use, i.e., if the logo is not effectively used for 5 years, then any third party can request its revocation.
  • Protection is limited to the classes of goods and services selected at the time of filing: this is the principle of speciality.
  • Protection is also limited in terms of territory, as it is only valid in the country where the trademark is registered: this is the principle of territoriality.

  1. Protection by copyright law.

This law protects intellectual works, which covers a wide range of creations: books, drawings, music, films, software, etc. The creation must be original. This protection is valid for 70 years after the death of the author. It is an exclusive intangible property right that is enforceable against all.

A logo can be protected by copyright law since, provided it meets the condition of originality, it is fundamentally a graphic artwork.

This right is acquired automatically by the mere fact of the materialisation of a creation, there is no need to register. However, it is advisable to build up proof to be able to attest the date and ownership of the creation, using means of proof of anteriority, such as the certificate. For more information: copyright protection.

Some advantages:

  • No need to register.
  • It is also possible to bring an infringement action against an identical or substantial copy of the logo by another design or trademark, or to oppose a trademark application that would infringe the copyright of the logo.
  • The scope of protection is not limited to specific goods and services, but applies to the work itself, regardless of the field.
  • Copyright protection is international under the Bern Convention, which allows protection to be valid in over 175 countries.

There are also disadvantages:

  • Proof of originality and ownership of the logo can be difficult to provide.
  • Copyright does not protect against similar copying, but against copying of a substantial part of a work, which is potentially less broad.
  • Copyright is valid for a shorter period, up to 70 years after the death of the author, which is still sufficient.

  1. Which protection to choose?

Most creators and web designers opt for copyright protection because the cost is lower, plus the protection is automatic and immediately international. The protection granted by copyright often appears to be more than sufficient. It is therefore advisable to obtain proof of anteriority to assert one’s rights more easily.

However, trademark law and copyright law can be complementary to ensure the overall protection of a logo. For more precautions, it may be wise to register a trademark while at the same time obtaining evidence to claim copyright. This phenomenon is called the cumulation of intellectual property rights. This double protection is not an obligation, but it could be used to protect an important logo.

  1. Protecting your logo by copyright: how to prove your rights with the service?

The certificate of anteriority enables you to prove that your creations existed at a certain date, and that you are the author, by obtaining a qualified electronic timestamp and the intervention of a Bailiff (depending on the offer selected). This type of service is important, as seen previously, for creations that are subject to copyright.

It is, in fact, essential to obtain proof of anteriority to be able to prove that you are the author of your creation with a certain date, i.e., to claim your copyright, in particular in the event of a copy or future challenge by a competitor. The anteriority certificate provides indisputable proof of anteriority, through the intervention of a Bailiff (depending on the offer selected), but also through the qualified electronic timestamp, which has evidential value, including internationally.

To apply for a anteriority certificate, the process can be completed online. Please visit the following address: