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Trademarks for App Icons

Mon Jan 10th, 2022 by  Trademarks

With the proliferation of smartphones in the past decade and a half, apps have become ubiquitous. From streaming video to social networking to banking to doing your taxes, there is an app for everything. Some major businesses, such as Uber, Tinder, and Instagram, are app-first or even app-only, with their primary method of customer engagement coming overwhelmingly through a smartphone app interface. With more and more traditional goods and services being accessed through smartphone apps, forward-thinking businesses can incorporate their app icons into their larger trademark strategies with the assistance of an Alabama trademark lawyer

Can You Trademark an App Icon? 

Trademark protection (and federal trademark registration) is available for any word, phrase, symbol, slogan, or jingle that identifies the goods or services of a business and distinguishes them from those of others. As digital markers of a brand’s identity, app icons fall within this definition. Generally, app icons are registrable as trademarks on the same basis as other source-identifying information: they must be distinctive and they must be in use in commerce. To be registrable with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the applicant must also show that there are no confusingly similar app icons already on the market, which can be ruled out through a trademark search

Tips for Strong App Icon Trademarks

A good app icon stands out from the others on a phone screen; it catches the user’s eye, piques their interest, and entices them to tap on it, while also providing visual clues to the user about what the app does. Below are a few tips for designing app icons that do that, while also establishing a firm basis for trademark registration

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel — use your existing company logo. If you have already put the time and resources into obtaining trademark registration for your existing company logo, incorporate it into your app icon. 
  • Choose a distinctive design. The key measure of the strength of a trademark is its distinctiveness. The more distinctive a trademark is, the stronger its protection will be. 
  • Don’t use the app icon merely to describe your service. Trademarks that are merely descriptive (e.g., “Alabama Flooring Company”) offer very weak trademark protection and are difficult to register. Some of the strongest app icons are those that use logos unrelated to the product or service being offered (e.g., the Snapchat ghost). 
  • Be cautious when using initials. One of the most popular app designs is a stylized initial of the company’s name (e.g., the Skype “S”). While sufficiently stylized initials may be registered as trademarks, you also run the risk that your initial is not distinctive enough or that another company has already registered it. 

Contact an Alabama Trademark Lawyer for Even More App Icon Trademark Tips

A strong and distinctive app icon can help your business stand out from the pack. For more information about designing and registering app icons, please contact an Alabama trademark lawyer at AdamsIP by calling 251-289-9787 or by using our online contact form. We assist clients throughout the state including Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.