There are three main symbols to indicate trademark rights: TM, SM, and ®. These symbols often appear as subscript or superscript in a product or service’s marketing materials. If you use one of these symbols, it will indicate that you are claiming trademark ownership. This doesn’t automatically establish your trademark rights since the claim may still need to be litigated in the event of a dispute, but placing a trademark symbol near the relevant word, phrase, logo, or design can still serve as a strong deterrent to any competitors who might want to violate your trademark. The key question is: Exactly when can you use trademark symbols? And what are the differences between the trademark symbols?
To find out when you can use the various trademark symbols on your product packaging, advertising materials, etc., keep reading this blog.
The Benefits of a Trademark Symbol
A trademark symbol can let people know that you are claiming ownership of the trademark. In other words, the trademark symbol is a visual cue to anyone who might be looking at your product, putting them on notice that you hold the trademark. For consumers, the symbol indicates that this particular product is associated with your brand, which can put the consumer at ease that what they are about to purchase is the right product. For competitors, the symbol tells them that this product is off limits if they are thinking about copying it and trying to pass it off as their own, an infringement that not only threatens to take away your customers but can also do serious damage to your brand integrity.
What Do the Trademark Symbols TM, SM, and ® Mean?
There are three different trademark symbols that are commonly used:
- TM – This is short for “Trademark,” and it is typically used for goods.
- SM – This is short for “Service Mark,” and it applies to services.
- ® – The R inside a circle signifies that a trademark has been federally registered.
Since you have common law trademark rights the moment you begin using your trademark, you also have a legal right to use the “TM” or “SM” symbols on your product packaging and in ads, depending on whether you want to indicate a trademark (TM) for goods or a service mark (SM) for services. It is only through official registration of your trademark, however, that you can legally use the trademark registration symbol ®.
Restrictions on Use of the Trademark Registration Symbol
It is important to understand that there are certain restrictions on use of the ® symbol, including the following:
- The trademark registration symbol can only be used by an officially recognized trademark holder, which means that the mark must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If your trademark application is still pending, you are not allowed to use the registration symbol.
- The trademark registration symbol cannot be used for aspects of your brand that are not listed in the federal trademark register. In other words, the particular good or service must, in fact, be officially trademarked and viewable in the USPTO online database.
- The trademark registration symbol must be placed near or around the word, slogan, logo, or design that is actually trademarked. It should be clear to the consumer which good or service has been registered.
Contact the California Trademark Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP
If someone has infringed on your IP rights and you need to enforce a trademark or copyright, having an experienced California intellectual property lawyer on your side can make all the difference. The Los Angeles trademark lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are here to help you. Call us anytime at 310-590-3927 or submit the contact form to schedule a consultation.