Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Trademarkin' Ain't Easy: The Artist's Guide to Intellectual Property (with apologies to the Notorious B.I.G.)

I'm thrilled to share that my trademark application for Dawn Hunter Art ® was approved on Valentine's Day, which made it even more special! Life has its poetry.

As an artist, it's critical to protect my brand and intellectual property, and having a registered trademark will allow me to do just that. The process of applying for and receiving a trademark can be complex and time-consuming, but having the legal protections that come with it is well worth it. I hired an attorney to ensure my process went as smoothly as possible.

Whether you plan to register your trademark on your own or seek legal counsel, I have compiled some information below to assist you as you think through and begin your trademark journey.

Having a common name has posed challenges in protecting my artistic identity. I have experienced hurdles with Artificial Intelligence search algorithm errors and sometimes others taking credit for my work or falsely representing themselves as me, i.e. combining my credentials with their own or not correcting misattribution. These incidents have highlighted the importance of protecting my artistic identity through intellectual property measures such as registered copyrights and trademarks. By taking legal steps to secure my brand, I can prevent others from using my name or brand without permission and potentially damaging my reputation or career.

Dawn Hunter's academic study of Cajal's retina drawing, marker and pen on paper.

Types of Trademarks

A trademark covers a specific name, logo, slogan, design, or other identifying mark representing a product or service. When a trademark is registered, it provides the "owner with the exclusive right to use the" mark in connection with their product or service and to prevent others from using a similar mark in a way that might cause confusion or dilute the value of the mark.

The specific scope of a trademark depends on the type of mark being registered and the goods or services offered. For example, a trademark might cover a brand name used to market a particular product or a logo representing a company or organization. The trademark might also cover a specific design or color scheme used in packaging or advertising materials.

For artists, having a registered trademark can be a vital way to protect their brand and prevent others from using their name, logo, or other identifying marks without permission. There are many reasons why artists need to consider registering their trademarks:

  • Brand recognition: A trademark can help establish your brand in the marketplace and make it easier for people to recognize your work and identify your products or services.
  • Legal protection: Registering your trademark gives you legal protection and the right to use the mark in commerce. It also provides a legal basis for taking action against others who may try to use your mark without permission or infringe on your intellectual property rights.
  • Licensing opportunities: A registered trademark can also provide opportunities for licensing and collaboration with other artists, businesses, or organizations that want to use your brand for their own products or services.
  • Reputation management: Registering your trademark can also help protect your reputation by preventing others from using your name or mark in a way that might damage your brand or cause confusion in the marketplace.

This is an image of Dawn Hunter's registered trademark logo

Above, Dawn Hunter's registered logo, and below, Dawn Hunter's registered word mark.


Someone can apply for several types of trademarks, depending on their business needs and the kind of trademark they want to register. It's worth noting that some trademarks can fall into more than one category. For example, a combination mark can be a word mark and a design mark combined. I registered Dawn Hunter Art ® twice, as a word mark and a design mark. This required two separate applications, and each mark is registered with its own unique registration number.

Here is a list of some of the most common types of trademarks:

  •  Word Mark: A word mark is a trademark that consists of only text, such as a company name, slogan, or product name.
  • Design Mark: A design mark is a trademark that consists of a logo, image, or other visual design. This type of trademark is often used in conjunction with a word mark to create a brand logo.
  • Combination Mark: A combination mark is a trademark that combines text and design elements. This type of trademark is often used to create a unique brand logo that includes the company name and a visual element.
  • Service Mark: A service mark is a trademark that protects a service rather than a physical product. It is used to identify and distinguish the source of service in the marketplace.
  • Collective Mark: A collective mark is a trademark that a group or organization uses to identify its members or affiliates. Trade organizations or professional associations often use this type of trademark.
  • Certification Mark: A certification mark is a trademark that is used to certify that a product or service meets a certain standard or quality level. This type of trademark is often used in industries such as food or organic products.
  • Sound Mark: A sound mark is a trademark consisting of a unique sound or musical jingle used to identify a product or service. This type of trademark is often used in radio or television commercials.

Above, Dawn Hunter's portrait of Santiago Ramón y Cajal in pyramidal neurons, marker, pen and ink on paper.

Trademark Process

Choosing the right type of trademark to meet your specific needs and provide the best protection for your brand is important. For example, my trademark encompasses content beyond the aesthetic look or style of my art and includes the educational aspects of my art and the unique research I have conducted on long-term projects, like my series and Fulbright research about Santiago Ramón y Cajal or my sabbatical project, Personified Doubles and Complementary Opposites.

IMO, it's important to work with an experienced trademark attorney to ensure your trademark is properly registered and to help you protect your intellectual property rights over time.

The trademark application process can be a bit complex, but it generally involves the following steps:

  • Conduct a trademark search: Before applying for a trademark registration, it's crucial to thoroughly research pre-existing trademarks to make sure your proposed trademark is not already in use by another brand. This can help you avoid potential conflicts or legal issues down the line.
  • Preparing and filing the application: Once you've confirmed that your trademark is available, you must prepare and file a trademark application with the appropriate government agency. In the United States, this is typically the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application will include details about your trademark, such as the mark itself, the goods or services it covers, and the owner of the mark.
  • Waiting for the application to be reviewed: After you file your trademark application, it will be assigned to an attorney employed by the USPTO, who is a trademark examiner, and they will review it to ensure it meets all of the requirements for registration. The review process can take several months, depending on the number of applications ahead of you in the queue and the complexity of your application.
  • Responding to any office actions: If the trademark examiner has any concerns or questions about your application, they may issue an office action requiring you to provide additional information or revisions to your application. You'll need to respond promptly to these office actions to keep your application moving forward.
  • Receiving approval and registration: Once a trademark application has been approved by a USPTO examining attorney, it is published in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This publication notifies the public of your trademark application. Those with opposition or objections can raise concerns during this time because it conflicts with their marks. If concerns arise, a legal proceeding occurs before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), an administrative tribunal within the USPTO. The TTAB will evaluate the opposition and decide whether to allow the trademark registration to proceed or deny it based on the opposition. However, if no concerns arise, your mark will be assigned a number and officially registered.

It's worth noting that the trademark application process can be complicated, and it's often a good idea to work with an experienced trademark attorney to help you navigate the process and ensure the best possible outcome for your application.

A view of artist Dawn Hunter's exhibition at the Delaware Contemporary Art Center
Above, photos from my exhibition Personified Doubles and Complementary Opposites. Below, detail of a centerpiece artwork from the show, Art Department.

This is a detail of artist Dawn Hunter's painting, Art Department


Obtaining a registered trademark has been a significant step in protecting my artistic brand and securing my intellectual property rights. While the process can be daunting, I encourage other artists to take this crucial step in safeguarding their work and professional identity. Don't let the fear of the unknown or the hassle of the application process hold you back from protecting your creations. With the legal protection provided by a trademark registration, you can have peace of mind knowing that your hard work and talent are secure. As artists, our unique voices and perspectives deserve recognition and protection. Let's take ownership of our artistry and safeguard our creative legacies through intellectual property rights.

Above, Dawn Hunter's mixed media painting, A Dream in August, marker, ink and acrylic on paper.


Below are a list of few resources that can help as you progress your trademark application.