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Three Things Photography Businesses Should Know About Trademark Law

September 7, 2018



Photographers in the Santa Monica and greater Los Angeles area have a lot to worry about, like scheduling shoots, traveling to shoots, making sure there are not a ton of tourists around shoots, timing shoots for ideal lighting, and customizing shoots for clients. On top of all of that, they also need to worry about trademark law. Although trademarks are often confused with copyrights, they are not the same and can not be used interchangeably. The guide below highlights some of the main things you should know about trademark law for your photography business, but for a full review of your photography business, contact the experienced trademark law attorneys at Verhagen Bennett for a free consultation today.


Definition of Trademark Law


According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark is a “word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.” In essence, a brand name has to be distinctive to qualify as a trademark. Generally, made up words, like “Kodak,” or words and phrases that are not typically associated with photography, like “Breezy Waverunner Photography,” will be considered distinctive. Words and phrases commonly associated with photography, like “Amazing Pics” are less likely to be considered distinctive. A trademark law attorney can help you run a trademark search on your brand name to make sure it is distinctive and not already taken by another photography business.


Registering a Trademark


One of the most common questions we hear from business owners is whether they should register their trademark with the government. While it is not mandatory to register your trademark with the USPTO, and you are still able to use the ™ symbol after your brand name, there are certain advantages to registering your trademark, such as the following:

  • Registering your trademark protects your brand from being used by other businesses, which can create massive confusion for customers over which business is which. Without registering your trademark, you will have a weak stance when trying to legally prohibit the other business from using the same brand name as yours.

  • Having a registered trademark with the USPTO also gives you priority to use your brand name across the nation, so as your business expands, you will not have to worry about running into businesses from other states with the same or similar name.

  • You can use the ® symbol instead of the ™, which shows customers and other businesses that your trademark is registered.

When to Use ™


You may be tempted to throw a ™ after your business name and on all your photos. However, it is important to know when to use ™ and when to refrain. The first thing to clear up is that your business’ legal name is not a trademark, so you would not add ™ after it. However, if you create a brand within your business, that brand name can be trademarked. For example, say your photography business is called “Breezy Waverunner Photography, LLC.” You would never write your business name as “Breezy Waverunner Photography, LLC ™,” but if you created a portrait photography brand called “Breezy Bodyshots,” you could add a ™ and write the brand name as “Breezy Bodyshots ™.”


One additional point to remember is that your photos are considered copyrightable works, so you would not trademark your photos or put a ™ on your photos.


Contact a Santa Monica or Greater Los Angeles Area Trademark Law Attorney


You want to make sure all the hard work and creativity you put into your photography business stays your property and is not copied or stolen by someone else. The trademark law attorneys at Verhagen Bennett have helped countless businesses protect their brand names and continue to work with businesses in the Santa Monica and greater Los Angeles area to build businesses with strong intellectual property protections. Contact us at 310-917-1064 or visit our website today to find out how we can help you.


(imag courtesy of Sami Boudjelti)


For questions or comments about this post, please email us directly at: info@VerhagenBennett.com


© 2018 Verhagen Bennett LLP — This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


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