How to Trademark a Picture?

How to Trademark a Picture?

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In today’s digital era, protecting your intellectual property is crucial. Pictures, as valuable assets, often need protection to prevent unauthorized use and maintain your rights as the creator. Trademarking a picture is one way to secure these rights. This comprehensive guide will explain how to trademark a picture, the associated costs, and the steps involved in the process.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or expression that identifies products or services from a particular source. It distinguishes them from those of others. Trademarks protect brand names, logos, and other identifiers that represent a business or product.

Why Trademark a Picture?

Trademarking a picture provides legal protection. It ensures that others cannot use your picture without permission. This is particularly important if your picture is used in marketing, as a logo, or as part of your brand identity. For instance, if you have a unique picture of a lion that you use as the logo for your sports team merchandise, trademarking that picture ensures no other team can use a similar lion image to represent their merchandise.

When you trademark a picture, you gain exclusive rights to use it in connection with your goods or services. This exclusivity helps prevent others from using a similar image that might confuse consumers or dilute your brand. If you are a photographer and have a signature photo that represents your brand, trademarking that photo means other photographers or businesses cannot use that same image or a similar one in their promotions.

Trademarking helps establish and maintain brand recognition. A trademarked picture can become a powerful symbol of your business, making it easily recognizable to consumers. Think of the McDonald’s golden arches. This image is immediately associated with McDonald’s due to its trademark protection, ensuring no other food chain can use a similar design.

A trademarked picture adds value to your business by becoming a recognized part of your brand identity. This can enhance your brand’s marketability and make it more attractive to investors or buyers. For example, a tech startup with a distinctive picture of a circuit board as its logo can increase its appeal to investors by trademarking this image, thereby securing its brand identity.

Preliminary Steps Before Applying

Determine the Picture’s Use

Ensure that the picture you wish to trademark is used in commerce to identify and distinguish your goods or services. The picture must serve as a symbol of your brand in the marketplace.

Conduct a Trademark Search

Before applying for a trademark, conduct a thorough search to ensure that your picture is unique and not already trademarked. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) for this purpose.

  1. Access the TESS Database: Visit the USPTO website and navigate to the TESS database.
  2. Search for Similar Trademarks: Enter keywords related to your picture and review the results.
  3. Identify Potential Conflicts: Look for any existing trademarks that could be considered similar to your picture.

By searching for similar trademarks, you avoid potential legal issues and ensure your application has a higher chance of being approved.

How To Trademark a Picture?

Choose the Right Application

The USPTO provides three different application options through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS):

  • TEAS Plus: $250 per class of goods or services. Requires strict adherence to USPTO guidelines.
  • TEAS Reduced Fee (TEAS RF): $275 per class. Offers more flexibility than TEAS Plus.
  • TEAS Regular: $350 per class. Provides the most flexibility but at a higher cost.

Prepare Required Documentation

Gather the necessary information and documentation for your trademark application:

  1. Description of the Picture: A detailed description of the picture you wish to trademark.
  2. Specimen of Use: Examples of how the picture is used in commerce (e.g., on products, marketing materials).
  3. Drawing of the Picture: A clear representation of the picture.
  4. Filing Fee: The applicable fee for filing your trademark application.

For example, if you are trademarking a picture used on your line of custom t-shirts, include a description of the picture, images of the t-shirts displaying the picture, and a drawing of the picture.

File Your Application

Submit your trademark application through the TEAS system on the USPTO website. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure your application is complete and accurate.

Monitoring and Responding to Your Application

Monitor Your Application Status

After submitting your application, it will be reviewed by a USPTO examining attorney. This review process can take several months. During this time, you can monitor the status of your application on the USPTO website.

Respond to Office Actions

If the examining attorney identifies any issues with your application, you will receive an office action. This document outlines the reasons for refusal and may request additional information or clarification.

  1. Review the Office Action: Carefully read the comments and requests from the examining attorney.
  2. Provide Additional Information: Submit any additional documents or explanations as requested.
  3. Amend the Application: Make any necessary changes to your application to address the issues.

For example, if the USPTO requests more detailed examples of how your picture is used in commerce, provide additional photographs or marketing materials.

Registration and Maintenance

Receiving Your Registration Certificate

Once your trademark application is approved, your picture will be registered, and you will receive a registration certificate. This certificate is proof of your trademark and provides legal protection for your picture.

Maintaining Your Trademark

To maintain your trademark, you must continue to use the picture in commerce and file periodic maintenance documents with the USPTO.

  1. Declaration of Use: Filed between the fifth and sixth year after registration.
  2. Renewal Application: Filed every ten years to keep the trademark active.

Maintaining your trademark ensures continued protection and exclusive rights to use your picture.

Costs of Trademarking a Picture

Filing Fees

  1. TEAS Plus: $250 per class of goods or services.
  2. TEAS Reduced Fee (TEAS RF): $275 per class.
  3. TEAS Regular: $350 per class.

Additional Costs

  1. Trademark Attorney Fees: If you hire an attorney, expect to pay additional fees for their services.
  2. Search Fees: Conducting a comprehensive trademark search may involve additional costs.
  3. Maintenance Fees: Periodic fees are required to maintain your trademark registration.

Budgeting for the Trademarking Process

When budgeting for the trademarking process, consider the following factors:

  • Filing Fees: Depending on the TEAS option you choose, filing fees can range from $250 to $350 per class of goods or services.
  • Additional Class Fees: If your picture applies to multiple classes, you will need to pay additional fees.
  • Legal Assistance: If you decide to hire an attorney or use a legal website, factor in these costs as well.

For instance, if you are trademarking a picture for use on both clothing and accessories, you will need to pay for each class of goods.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not Conducting a Thorough Search

Failing to conduct a thorough trademark search can lead to your application being denied. Ensure you search for all variations and similar images to avoid conflicts.

Choosing a Weak Trademark

Selecting a generic or descriptive image can weaken your trademark. Choose a distinctive and strong image that stands out.

Incomplete Applications

Submitting incomplete or incorrect information can delay the application process. Double-check all required documents and information before filing.

Ignoring Maintenance Requirements

Failing to file the necessary maintenance documents can result in the loss of your trademark. Keep track of filing deadlines and requirements to maintain your trademark.

Benefits of Working with a Trademark Attorney

Expert Guidance

Trademark attorneys provide expert guidance throughout the trademarking process. They can help you navigate complex legal requirements and ensure your application is correctly filed.

Increased Chances of Approval

Working with a trademark attorney can increase the chances of your application being approved. They can help you avoid common mistakes and provide valuable advice on strengthening your trademark.

Handling Legal Issues

If any legal issues arise during the trademarking process, a trademark attorney can represent you and handle these matters. This can save you time and reduce the stress of dealing with legal complexities.

Using a Trademark Service


Using an online trademark service can provide a convenient way to file your application. These services guide you through the process and handle much of the paperwork for you.


Online trademark services are often more cost-effective than hiring a trademark attorney. They provide a middle ground between doing it yourself and seeking professional legal help.

Support and Resources

Many trademark services offer support and resources to help you understand the trademarking process. This can be especially useful if you are unfamiliar with trademark law.


Trademarking a picture is a crucial step in protecting your creative works and ensuring that your brand’s identity is secure.