Logo Branding Challenges In The Pharmaceutical And Healthcare Industry

Stephen Stolfi,

Companies have used IP branding techniques such as word marks and logos for many decades as a means of achieving a competitive advantage. While all potential trademarks face similar challenges in terms of development and registration, there are several unique issues facing those developing new brands in the pharmaceutical sector. The differences in regulations of marketing and selling drugs mean that many of the traditional strategies used to market consumer goods are not acceptable when it comes to certain sectors of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

In this article, I examine the recent growth of the global pharmaceutical industry and reflect upon the importance of branding in this market. I also highlight some of the challenges that can arise when creating a strong, impactful, and visual brand and the solutions available to brand owners operating in the pharmaceutical and healthcare market today.

Healthy growth in the pharmaceutical industry

According to Statistica, the market has experienced significant growth during the past two decades, and pharma revenues worldwide totaled $1.25 trillion in 2019. This increase in activity is also reflected when examining recent trademark registration data extracted from the primary Nice Classes used by trademark owners in the pharmaceutical industry — Nice Class 5 (Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies) and Nice Class 10 (Medical Devices).

Class 5 saw growth of 25% in the volume of applications filed in Class 5 in the USPTO and the EUIPO combined, whilst an increase of 21% was recorded globally in 2020 when compared to 2019.

Class 10 (Medical Devices) saw a 64% increase in volumes of applications filed globally in 2020, whereas the USPTO and the EUIPO combined saw a significant rise of 84% in 2020, when compared to the previous year.

The importance of pharmaceutical branding

Pharmaceutical branding is an important way for owners to promote awareness of the benefits of their products. Building a strong brand both before and while a new drug is under patent can help to extend the commercial shelf life and keep consumer loyalty of a product once its patent and monopoly rights expire and new players enter the market. A strong brand will help to position it correctly in the market, highlight any differences with third party competition to the consumer, and can even help to showcase its performance to physicians and doctors who are instrumental in prescribing it. The most common branding trademark assets used today by brand owners include logos, slogans, word marks, trade dress (packaging), and symbols — and the Pharma industry also takes advantage of all of these kinds of registrable marks to optimize brand protection.

In prescription branding word marks are arguably the most important signs. This is because brand owners are keenly aware of the serious nature of their products and keep the tone of their branding very clear. Regulatory restrictions on advertising and the shorter shelf life of prescription add to the challenge of using brands in Pharma marketing and creating consumer awareness. That is why companies tend to invest more in corporate branding for these types of products, rather than product branding.

When it comes to healthcare and “over-the-counter” non-prescription drugs — like dietary supplements or products for daily use — the branding tone of voice can be more playful and this where the use of the graphical representation of trademarks such as logos can come into the picture.

Logo leader in the healthcare industry

BENGAY®️ is one good example of the successful use of a more playful tone to attract consumers and get their attention in a market that is getting more crowded each year. Owned by American multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson the brand has 13 BENGAY logos registered in the USPTO in Nice Class 5 at the time of writing.

Logo marks containing the mark text BENGAY owned by Johnson & Johnson

Data retrieved by TrademarkNow’s LogoCheck™

Creating, screening, and clearing a new logo for use in such a fast-growing industry can be a cause for many stakeholders to reach for pain relief!

Challenge of logo clearance and trademark law

In trademark law, the rules of comparison for pharmaceutical trademarks have long been stricter than those in other categories of products. The courts have frequently held that when pharmaceutical products are concerned, confusion may result in harmful consequences to the health of consumers. Therefore, a stricter approach has been applied in these cases. Recent EU case law highlights the challenges of logo clearance in the pharmaceutical industry today.

In MSI Svetovanje, marketing, d.o.o. ("MSI") v EUIPO; Industrial Farmaceutica Cantabria, SA registration as a mark was sought for the following figurative sign:


The opposition was based on the EU word mark numederm.

The General Court upheld the Board of Appeal's decision that there was a likelihood of confusion between the marks under Article 8(1)(b) in relation to the goods that had been found to be identical or similar.

In relation to the goods in Class 5, the fact that the food supplements covered by the earlier mark were sold in pharmacies and specialist shops, whilst the pharmaceutical preparations covered by the mark applied for were only sold in pharmacies, was not sufficient to prevent them being deemed similar. Neither was the fact that the goods in question were produced according to different standards. The two trademarks were held by the General Court to be visually similar, and phonetically similar to an average degree.

Let LogoCheck™ help take away the pain of your new logo search

To help meet the challenges of logo branding in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry TrademarkNow, a Corsearch company, developed an intelligent logo search by image solution, LogoCheck — that is powered by AI and has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. The tool enables creatives, marketing, and IP professionals to screen and search for new logo marks together, from anywhere in the world, and on one platform, quickly and easily.

How does LogoCheck work?

  • You can select a number of filters from LogoCheck’s Finder Bar to help your hunt for a new Pharma logo, including Trademark Status, Vienna codes and US design codes, specific country registries, Nice (product) Classes, and even key in individual product types, such as “Medicines”.
  • Once the potentially-competing designs are revealed, you can click to review the trademark registry details of individual close matches — and even check out each trademark-owner’s portfolio.
  • Finally, you can select those logos that do appear to be risks into a downloadable report for your colleagues to discuss further.

This kind of quick quality check enables you to knockout weaker logo candidates during your trademark search — thus reducing your original list of logos and risk level — and move your ‘good’ logo candidates forward onto a full, robust, Device Search and a comprehensive clearance and strategy report, with risk analysis, compiled by an expert (human) analyst at Corsearch.

Thinking about a new Pharma brand? Let LogoCheck take the pain away!


*The above trademarks and logos are not affiliated with or owned by TrademarkNow, a Corsearch company and are used for illustrative purposes only as public record from the respective Trademark Offices.

** The above-mentioned brands are noted for factual reporting purposes only, the listing of the brands does not imply any relationship with Corsearch or its related entities.


By Stephen Stolfi
Stephen Stolfi a member of the Corsearch Executive Leadership Team. He has been with Corsearch for over 20 years and has worked in the brand clearance and protection solutions industry for close to 30 years. Throughout his career, Stephen has guided and trained numerous individuals at corporations and law firms on effective trademark search and brand protection strategies. He has also guest lectured on trademark clearance and protection at various colleges and universities throughout the U.S., as well as at local and global intellectual property associations. He has written a number of articles and has been quoted about brands in various industry publications and industry blogs. Stephen is Corsearch's Chief Commercial Officer.