Trademarks cover comic book characters' names and logos. Any character's name or logo used on products offered in commercial trade may qualify as a trademark. A trademark generally contains any combination of original words, signs, symbols, phrases and designs. A trademark may not contain generic or merely descriptive terms, such as "bat" or "man". However, the character name "Batman" qualifies as a unique combination of words and the Batman logo qualifies as a unique design. Registration of comic book character names must not infringe on other trademark owners' rights.
Choose a unique comic book character name to identify your hero and distinguish him from other comic book heroes. Avoid names similar to other comic book characters that may create confusion between the two. Similar names with a likelihood of confusion generally do not qualify for trademark registration, since they may infringe on the other trademark owner's rights.
Read More: Difference Between a Logo & Trademark
Use the comic book character's name, logo and slogans on products offered in commercial trade. Create a stylized mark out of the name, with a specific color, font and size. Draw a sketch of the logo. Prepare sample products with the name and the logo placed on each product. Consider action figures, lunch boxes and costumes. Offer the trademarked products for sale in the marketplace.
Search the Internet and state and federal trademark registration databases for similar marks. Conduct one search for the character's name and another search for the design logo. Use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Electronic Search System for registered trademarks and pending applications.
Access the state trademark office of each state where the marks will be predominately used in commercial trade. Most states offer online trademark registration information and services. Download a state registration application for each applicable state.
Complete a separate state application for each trademark registration, as necessary. Provide a drawing of the stylized name mark and a drawing of the logo design. Pay applicable filing fees for each trademark application. Submit the application online or by mail.
Complete a use-based federal registration application for each name, logo or slogan to be used as a trademark. Choose a use-based application based on the use of the trademark in commercial trade -- either current use in commerce or an intent to use the mark in the future. Review the federal trademark registration process on the USPTO website.
Fill in ownership information on the federal registration form, including the date the character's name was first used in commercial trade. The date of first use refers to the use of the mark anywhere and also to its first use in commercial trade. Sign a sworn affidavit to confirm you are the rightful owner of the trademark, developed the mark and used it first.
Select the types of goods or services applicable to each trademark. Two examples of goods include toy action figures and character T-shirts. Each type of good falls under a category. For example, character T-shirts may be categorized as clothing, footwear and head gear, which is International Class 25. Calculate the filing fees based on the number of categories selected for each trademark product.
Submit the application online or by mail. Pay the filing fees. Include the drawings of the stylized name mark and logo. Send samples of the trademarks on the products as used in commercial trade. Save the application confirmation if processed online.
The name "Superhero" also qualifies as a trademark. However, Marvel and DC Comics jointly hold exclusive trademark rights to the name "Superhero," so no one else can trademark that name or use it without a license.
File a federal copyright registration application for all other creative work associated with the comic book character, such as character artwork for T-shirts or posters. Consult with a trademark attorney or seek filing assistance from an online legal document service to simplify the process.
- Citizen Media Law Project: Securing Trademark Rights:Ownership and Federal Registration
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: State Trademark Information Links
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Trademark, Patent or Copyright?
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Trademark Process
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Tess Tips
- NPR.org: Comics Creators Search for 'Super Hero' Alternative
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Nice Agreement Tenth Edition - General Remarks, Class Headings and Explanatory Notes
Based in Los Angeles, Victoria McGrath has been writing law-related articles since 2004. She specializes in intellectual property, copyright and trademark law. She earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona, College of Law. McGrath pursued both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts at University of California, Los Angeles, in film and television production. Her work has been published in the Daily Bruin and La Gente Newsmagazine.