Often, in the US, a trademark registration is for the wording only rather than the design of a logo. The terminology used for this type of mark on a US Trademark application is “standard character mark.”
A registration for the design of a logo would be a separate application. What is the difference between the two types of registration? Which is better?
Standard Character Mark
A registration for a standard character mark covers all variations of the wording that you want to protect. It covers the wording in any letter style and any color or size. That means it covers the wording if it’s part of a logo design, too. In other words, a standard character registration is more comprehensive than a registration that is for only the design of a logo, because it covers all forms of the wording (including its use as a domain name).
A design mark
On the other hand, a trademark registration for the design of a logo applies only to the exact design as it appears in the drawing that you send with the application. So, what happens if you want to change the design later, or add or remove a word? You will have a problem, because you will be required to apply for a new trademark registration. In effect, then, a registration for a standard character mark may be stronger, more versatile, than a registration for a design mark.
Why not register the wording of a logo as a trademark and its design as a copyright? Because, so often, a logo does not qualify for copyright protection in the US. [see related post: Can logos receive copyright protection?]
Consequently, many trademarks are protected by two trademark registrations, one for the wording and one for the design. You may even see two registrations just for the design (one in color and one in black and white). If you want to apply for only one trademark registration to save money, an attorney may advise registering a standard character mark rather than a design mark. There are more infringements related to words than to designs. Sometimes, though, a particular word mark may be considered “weak,” so that protecting the design may take on greater importance. Again, the advice of a trademark attorney can be valuable.
The ideal, of course, is to protect both wording and design by separate registrations, though it’s more costly.
USPAT page explaining character mark versus designed mark This link is to a government page and has some illustrations.
Law 4 Small Business This post is by attorney David Ferrance from 2015. Clear and succinct explanation of character mark versus design mark.
Words or Logo or Both? A more involved explanation from the blog of attorney Eric Waltmire.