If you have ever seen the trademark symbol (™), the registered trademark symbol (®), or the service mark symbol (℠), you might be wondering what they are used for, who is allowed to use them, and where they should appear. These symbols serve to identify the source of goods or services and bring additional benefits to the brand bearing it. We will cover these three symbols and explain how to use them in more detail below.

The (™) symbol stands for the word trademark. It gives notice to the public that you are using the brand as a trademark. The (™) symbol can only be used on products or services for which the brand has not been federally registered or is pending federal registration at the USPTO. 

For example, if you are selling mugs under the name Magic Mugs, you can add the (™) trademark symbol to the end of Magic Mugs™ to show the public and give them notice that you are using the term Magic Mugs™ as a trademark.

The (℠) symbol stands for the word service mark. A service mark (℠) can only be used on services that are protected under the common law and for which a trademark is not registered with the USPTO. 

For example, if you own a car wash company under the name “Magic Wash,” you can add the service mark (SM) ℠ symbol at the end of Magic Wash℠ to indicate to the public that you are using the term Magic Wash℠ to refer to your car washing services.

The (®) symbol stands for “a registered trademark,” which can only be used on products or services that are associated with a registered trademark. The registered symbol (®) consists of the letter “R” with a circle around it, and it indicates that an individual or business has successfully registered their trademark or service mark with the USPTO. 

Tip: Applying for a trademark is not sufficient to allow you to use the (®) registered symbol on your product or service. Also, once you have registered your trademark at the USPTO, you can only use the registered symbol (®) on the goods or services for which you registered the trademark. 

Check your trademark registration to know what products or services you can use the registered symbol on. Your trademark registration should indicate the class of goods or services for which you have registered your mark and for which you can add the registration symbol. 

Benefits of the Trademark Symbol

While using the TM symbol and the SM symbol offer you some protection under the common law, a major benefit is that this puts people on notice that you are using your brand as a trademark, identifying that you are the source of the goods or services bearing the mark. It deters others from utilizing an identical or similar mark for the same or similar products or services.

The use of the (®) registered trademark, federally registering your trademark or service mark with the USPTO, does have more additional legal benefits that we will discuss later in this article.

Where to Use the Trademark Symbol?

Typically the TM, SM, or (R) mark are placed as a superscript at the top right end of the word. For example, the trademark Target® has the letter “R” in a circle at the top right corner of target, indicating that the term Target® is federally registered as a trademark at the USPTO.

If you are using your trademark or service mark symbol on a website, add the SM or TM symbol to the right of your brand on a prominent location of your website. Not every page of your website needs to have this designation added to the mark.

How Often Should You Use the TM, SM, or (R) symbol?

You may use any of the trademark or service mark symbols that apply to your business at the top of a web page, print material, brochure, advertising material, product, or service offering. You do not need to include the symbol every time the trademark is mentioned; however, it would be best if you include it in a highly visible place, such as the top of a webpage or document bearing the mark.

If you are using your trademark on print materials that are more than two pages long, it would be better to use the trademark symbol once on your mark every 1-2 pages to remind the reader that you are the owner of the trademark or service mark. (No written rule mandates that you must use your trademark this way; this is just the use we recommend to safeguard your mark as best as we know-how).

Third-Party Use of Your Mark

If you allow a third party to use your trademark or service mark, it’s important to assure that they are using the proper designation on your mark and that their customers and the public are aware that you are the owner of the trademark and not them. 

Evaluate how third parties use your trademark on products or services to guarantee that they are up to par with the standards of your brand. 

Be wary of someone who uses your trademark on a subpar product or service, as this may lead consumers to assume that the quality of the product or service offered by the third party applies to products or services provided under your brand.

You can ensure that the third party offers goods or services that are up to par by sending them guidelines that they must adhere to when applying your trademark to their products, services, or materials. You can specify where your mark should appear, how it should appear, and that a statement is included indicating that you are the trademark owner and not them. 

Benefits of Adding TM, SM, or (R) Symbol 

The main benefit of adding the TM, SM, and (R) symbol to your products is that you are placing the public on notice that you are using your mark as a trademark or identifier that points to you as the source of your product or service. 

Using these marks legally protects you by reducing the possibility that anyone else will use your mark on their own products or services.

In the event that someone else infringes upon your mark and adds it to their own products or services, it becomes harder for them to claim ignorance or that they did not know that you are the rightful owner of the mark since you have been using the mark on your own products or services, and you have been prominently displaying the TM, SM, or (R) symbol.

A welcome side benefit of adding the TM or SM superscript to your product or service is that you are building distinctiveness in an otherwise regular word or logo. For example, if your trademark consists of the word “LogoEz” for logo design services, by adding the TM symbol to the end of LogoEz™, you are telling the public that you are using the terms LogoEz as a trademark and that you are the owner of the trademark. This strengthens the public perception of your brand and adds to the proof you need to register your mark with the USPTO successfully.

A registered trademark (R), although implies a more costly and lenghy process because you must register your brand with the USPTO, offers additional legal protection. 

It allos individuals or businessowners of the trademark to sue anyone using their brand and recover damages in a trademark infringement lawsuit. However, failing to oublicly display the trademark symbol results in the trademark owner being denied the ability to recover damages in a trademark infringement claim. 

If you have any general questions or comments regarding any of the symbols that we covered today, please leave us a comment, and we’ll try to respond as soon as possible. We hope this article helped clarify when and where to use the different trademark symbols.

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