How to Trademark a Symbol?

From the branding point of view, a symbol is any sign or mark that represents a brand, its services and products. Symbols can be protected under the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, to differentiate the products of one brand from the other. In order to qualify for registration, a symbol should be distinctive and should not be similar to other registered symbols.

Trademark as defined under section 2 of the Trademarks Act, 1999, is a mark that can be represented graphically and is capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one individual from another. Therefore, under the said section, symbols can be trademarked since it can be represented graphically. 

The Oxford dictionary defines a symbol as, “A shape or sign used to represent something such as an organization, which can be a Red Cross symbol or Star of David symbol that represents Jews.”

The ultimate role of symbols in branding

Simply put, it is a visual graphic element that can help identify a company. Usually, this refers to the illustrative part of a company's logo. While the Apple Logo and Nike Swoosh are generically called logos, they are actually symbols being used as part of the brand logo. The Starbucks logo is made up of a combination of symbols and type. 

Registering your symbol as a trademark

The Trademarks Act specifies that only distinctive symbols, which can distinguish the goods and services of one business from those of other businesses, can receive trademark protection. The symbols should have the following characteristics to qualify for registration

  • The symbol used by a business owner should be distinctive; meaning, that it should not be a mark that is commonly used. People must be able to associate the symbol only with the specific brand.

  • Symbols cannot be similar to other trademarks, either registered or in the process of registration. It is essential to have a distinct and unique symbol to secure trademark protection.

  • The symbol you want to register as your trademark should act as the source-identifier of your goods and services. 

You can register your symbol as a trademark by submitting a trademark application through the online or offline process.

  1. You can take the help of a Trademark Attorney to help you with the nuances of registering a symbol as a trademark.
  2. Note that registration is possible for standalone symbols and combination symbols (that includes type) under the Trademarks Law. A graphic representation of the same will have to be attached with the application.
  3. The trademark registration process for your symbol might take over a year. However, once the application is accepted, the ( TM ) symbol can be used with your mark.


Symbols have been popular for several years and play a huge role in brand recall. For instance, the NIKE’s swoosh symbol. Hence, it becomes an essential brand asset to be trademarked. Remember that, the more distinctive your symbol is, the more the chances are for it to be accepted and registered by the Trademarks Office.

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