Using the right symbol for you mark

What do the intellectual property symbols ®, ™, and SM mean and when can you use them?

The proper usage of these symbols is important for advertising, articles, blog posts, blurbs, and anything published either in paper or digital format – basically, everything that will be read by someone else – to protect intellectual property.

a trademark is a word, symbol, phrase, design, device, or a combination thereof that uniquely identifies a particular company or individual and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of another. A service mark identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. The term ‘trademark’ is frequently used to refer to both trademarks and service marks, and legally there is no difference. Anyone who claims rights to use a mark may use the ™ or SM  designation to alert the public to your claim of ownership of the mark. This does not require a formal application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Including the TM and SM symbols for a product or service in not required under US trademark law; however, it does indicate ownership and is advisable to use the symbols. The symbols should follow the “mark” and be bold, elevated, or otherwise noted. For example, ABCTM is an example of a mark that has been trademarked as a product but is not yet registered by the USPTO.

A trademark that has been granted registration by the USPTO is entitled to use the US registered trademark symbol, designated by ® (a circled capital letter “R”). The ® symbol is used with the mark instead of the SM or TM symbols. It is illegal to use the ® (registered symbol) if the mark has not been registered by the USPTO. However, several foreign countries use the ® symbol to indicate that a mark is registered in that country. In this case, use of the symbol by the holder of a foreign registration may be proper.

When you apply for registration of your mark with the USPTO, you will need to provide a digital copy of the mark without the TM, SM or ® symbol in it. Otherwise, the symbol becomes part of your mark. Your specimen showing use of the mark in commerce may have the TM or SM on it, but not he ® symbol, as the mark has not officially been registered at that point.