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What is the Difference Between Brand and Trademark

Trademark and brand names are two elements of intellectual property that are often used interchangeably. Many business owners use a trademark to protect their brand, however, a trademark is not a brand on its own. This guide aims to provide easily understandable and concise information on differentiating between brand vs trademark. We dive into the definitions of a brand and trademark, draw the key differences between the two, outline the connection of brand and a trademark and give reasons to protect your brand with trademarking it.

Defining the Basics

Before exploring the aspects that make up a brand and trademark, we should first gain an insight into the meaning of each of the two concepts.

Brand

The word “brand” stands for the thing that appears to be the well-liked and refreshing personality of the companies, products, or services in the memories and minds of individuals. It is everything from the brand name and logo to the actual consumer experience and the emotions associated with this particular identity. The ultimate goal of identity building is to increase audience recognition, loyalty, and sentiment. When a brand has been really successful, it becomes more than a mere product; it turns into a status symbol, a fashion statement, or a personality that people tend to identify with on a personal level. Costco is such a brand that espouses quality, value, and efficiency in a member-follower-type model. This customer’s emotional link to personal branding is of great value and can develop a lifetime bond if cared for well. The process of creating a strong and consistent brand, which will help attract and retain clients in the crowded marketplace, becomes an essential issue for today’s businesses.

Trademark

Conversely, a trademark is the exact legal term denoting the word, phrase, symbol, or design representing the source of the goods and services. It is being treated as an intellectual property right of government agencies and is granted an exclusive right to that owner to use it as a trademark. The trademark serves to prevent competitors from imitating identity features, which may cause confusion for customers. Many illustrative trademark examples are McDonald’s Golden Arches, Nike’s swoosh, and Coke’s unique scripted font. There are several categories of trademarks:
  • Wordmarks (Google)
  • Logos (Apple)
  • Slogans (“Just Do”It”—Nike)
  • Trade Dress (distinctive packaging or design like Coke bottles)
However, trademarks and brands are different in the sense that the trademark confers legal rights to the holder, whereas the brands refers to the identity that a mark has built up over time in the minds of consumers.
apple brand vs trademark

Key Differences

Let’s explore the key differences between a trademark and a brand in the table below.
Aspect Trademark Brand
Nature Legal mechanism Marketing and business concept
Function Protects unique signs and symbols Represents company identity and customer relationship
Scope Territorial and category-specific Global and across markets
Creation and Protection Trademark registration with official agencies Built through marketing and customer experience
Enforcement Legal action against infringement Public perception and potential loss of reputation
Specificity Focuses on specific elements (name, logo, slogan) Encompasses all aspects of a company’s image
Evolution Can be relatively static Dynamic and can evolve over time
Cost May have registration fees Primarily driven by marketing and operational costs
Public Perception Seen as a symbol of ownership and quality (if well-enforced) Shapes customer expectations and trust
brand vs trademark comparison table

Connection Between Brands and Trademarks

The difference trademark and brand are separately defined but they are the two concepts that have become inseparable throughout the business industry. Trademarks serve as an important instrument in the protection of the brand identity and the image that a company perfectly balances and tries to construct. Trademarks – may these be logos, slogans, or designs – are such significant factors that consumers quickly associate with a brand. Let’s see some examples from companies that have become a household name.
  • Amazon’s smile logo symbolises their commitment to customer satisfaction and innovative solutions, showcasing their dedication to excellence and reliability.
  • Spotify has made an essential part of its positioning by being a truly music-driven brand that resonates with millions of fans represented by their green ring logo.
  • Starbucks established itself with their famous Siren logo which is the epitome of their major brand concept—that is, a “third-place” vibe.
These illustrations demonstrate the value of trademark protection as a critical tool that companies may use to safeguard their unique brands and the associations that come with these marks, which they have developed over time.
startbucks brand vs trademark

Why Protect Your Brand for Trademark Registration

Properly protected trademarks are among the essential assets of companies. Let’s consider four main reasons to give your brand a decent level of protection with trademark registration.

Legal Protection

A trademark is essentially what makes your identity distinctive from the others, and it gives you the legal authority to use your brand assets like a logo, name, or slogan on particular categories of goods and services that trademark expands on. In the USA, the protection of trademark is defied by The Lanham Act. Major firms, such as Apple, have fervently defended their trademark symbol as the sole property of the brand and built it into their Brand DNA.  There are even more legal advantages of registering your trademark:
  • The exclusive right to use the logo for your goods or services is one of the benefits of trademark registration. Applications of confusingly similar marks will be rejected by authority bodies.
  • A right that allows one to sue for trademark infringement in a court of law at the federal level.
  • The inclusion of the ® symbol, therefore, denotes it as a registered trademark and prevents unintentional plagiarism.
  • Listings in the official body of your country. USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) keeps record of all registered trademarks in the United States. In the EU, EUIPO (Europeam Union Intellectual Property Office) administers the EU Trade Mark and Design rights, applicable throughout the member countries.
  • E-commerce websites such as Amazon require a registered trademark to grant protection of your goods from plagiarism and counterfleit on the platforms.

Protect brand identity

Your brand identity goes beyond just colours and logos to include the visuals, personality, and feelings that your customers link with your company. A trademark is a legal sign that certifies that these priceless, intangible assets are owned by you. An example is Coca-Cola’s iconic script and contoured bottle design that are trademarked so that competitors will not use similar personal branding,  which could confuse customers and eventually bring Coke’s authenticity, which was formed about 130 years ago, into doubt. After all, losing the brand which value is more than $98 billion due to the lack of proper protection

Business Growth and Valuation

A strong trademark is a company’s best asset, validating that investment as the company grows. First, by registering a trademark, you can bring brand awareness to new product lines or regions without any concern over brand trespass. Second, strengthening your mark will also increase your company’s perceived value. In the current market, a brand’s portfolio of intellectual properties, is heavily weighted when assessing a business’s value and future income potential. These may account for not less than 35–40% of its market capitalisation. Third, a registered trademark indicate to investors the strong branding mindset of a business and the intent to offer a coordinated plan for personal branding across all touch points of the company. Through brand defence at the board level, the company can stand out and become one of the market leaders by building a credible and professional company outlook. Trademarks may help make businesses more acquisition-attractive. Especially, in terms of investment or purchase options for future investors and gainers who see the businesses’ brand as having untapped brand potential.

Global Recognition and Protection

The Golden Arches of McDonald’s, for example, is a trademark in almost every country in the world. This way, their brand identity and experience can be maintained globally. If you want to repeat or even best McDonalds and wish to register your trademark internationally, it is crucial for companies to first have a registered trademark or a pending trademark application in their own country. This serves as a foundation for pursuing global trademark registration and safeguarding their intellectual property rights on a global scale. Through the support of different advantages of trademark registration, entrepreneurs are guided to take their brand identity legally, shield it from imitation, and enable growth in the long run from the beginning.
Mcdonald's brand vs trademark

Conclusion

As this guide has illustrated, understanding the distinct yet connected roles of brands and trademarks is essential for any business owner or entrepreneur. While an identity represents the core identity and consumer perception you aim to cultivate, trademarks provide the critical legal rights to exclusively use and protect the assets that embody that brand identity. From safeguarding against infringement to enhancing company valuation and enabling global expansion, trademarking your logos, names, and other brand elements is a strategic move that should not be overlooked. Properly managing both brand and trademark in lockstep allows you to fortify your unique market position and equity.However, it’s important to recognise that trademark law impose nuances and complexities. As your business evolves, new situations may arise that warrant professional legal counsel to ensure full protection of your intellectual property rights. With trademark experts like Chern & Co by your side, this is not a problem. Book a call with an expert to get assistance with trademark registration in the EU, the USA, and the UK.

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