“If you claim rights to use a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim of ownership of the mark, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, you may only use the federal registration symbol “®” after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending.”

Quoted from the USPTO website.

If anyone can use TM, isn’t it just adding clutter, as Starbucks have done?

Starbucks website screenshotStarbucks website screenshot

Even when the ‘R’ symbol is used (shown below on the Adidas and McDonald’s websites), it looks more like a few stray pixels, a slip of the designer’s hand.

Adidas website screenshotAdidas website screenshot

McDonald's website screenshotMcDonald’s website screenshot

And when companies such as Nike, Mercedes-Benz, and Coca-Cola leave their main online logos free from this embellishment, is there really any point?

Nike website screenshotNike website screenshot

Mercedes-Benz website screenshotMercedes-Benz website screenshot

Coca-Cola website screenshotCoca-Cola website screenshot

Just something I’ve been wondering.

A few thoughts on trademark infringement, elsewhere on the blog
The perils of trademarking logos, by Michael Johnson


All these little Rs and TMs are the reason why the appearance of Microsoft feels so bumpy, and Apple, on the other hand, so clean. If you take a look at the Microsoft homepage it’s horrible, especially the lightbox slide for MS Office: http://twitpic.com/7jcr55 Even the small icons have little TMs.

Apple looks so much cleaner and friendlier without all this clutter. I think this is a point why Apple is such a love mark: it looks friendly. All the trademark extensions of the Microsoft logos say subliminally: “We own all the rights and if you do something wrong with it we sue you to death!”

So the decision to put the trademark extension somehow reveals the behavior of the company.

The Apple logo is a love mark? Take their logos and post them somewhere, or steal music from Apple that’s “Apple only” and see how much they love you then. If they “loved” us they wouldn’t charge us $900 for a phone. You’re crazy if you think Apple is here because they “love” people.

What? Okay, so how much would their phones cost if they “did” love you? Whether a company loves you the phone costs money to make. Apple only makes 200 bucks off every phone. The rest goes to pay for everything else, because of the quality of materials and designs. I mean, I’m no apple fan boy but sheesh.

It’s exactly like USPTO says, you are claiming the mark. The TM designates that element as something by which you want to be recognized. Nike, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola have already established ownership of their symbols.

Which then makes me wonder, Miles, hasn’t McDonald’s already established ownership of the golden arches, or Microsoft with its wordmark (below)?

Additionally, if a trademark is registered, but doesn’t display the ® symbol, is it any less protected against trademark infringement?

Arne, that’s a good example of symbol overdose.

Microsoft screenshot

It’s exactly as Miles has stated above. But the main problem with ‘TM’ vs ‘R’ is that even after years of establishing rights before registering a mark legally….someone else can file the paperwork first and own the mark you’ve worked so hard for. It could end up a huge mess in the end. But is full registration really worth it in the long run? I mean all of the fees you have to pay every so many years can become a hassle so you could still end up losing ownership if you mess up. The TM is scary enough but the R really means so much more responsibility….or does it?

Thats a fair question. I think if you’re a smaller company and have a great iconic logo/name, you would want to protect it by using a registration mark. After all, you’re not Apple and probably don’t have the resources to do battle in court with a larger company, so you save yourself some misery down the road in that respect. But I don’t see the point of McDonald’s using it. At one time I know that you HAD to use it if you were registered, but that rule has since changed.

Using a trademark symbol ( if youre a smaller company with a great iconic logo) is not a bad idea for the same reason. It shows others that you are at least THINKING in terms of legalities which in itself is a deterrent.

These established companies are probably just listening to their legal department more than their design department in this regard.

I notice it more on food/beverage packaging than anywhere else. I suppose that if you eat poisonous food and the package has a logo on it that looks like yours you would have more of a reason to deter potential logo thieves.

So it goes…


Also, I know that legally , if you use your mark for a while, that gives you some intellectual property rights even without trademark or registration symbols.


I’m going to guess that at some level, it has to do with what their attorneys tell them to do. I’ve worked with several clients who use the trademark and registered trademark symbols, and found that not only do they use them inconsistently (some want it everywhere, some only on certain logos or name mentions), but that it ultimately comes down to “this is how our IP attorney told us to use it”. Perhaps it’s more of a lack of agreed-upon best practices in the Intellectual Property community than anything else?

I find it interesting though how I have two businesses that are both TM and one I seem to have no problem getting social networks to recognize. But the other, for example, Facebook wants my ‘R’ filing # before they’ll delete someone else using my name. The funny thing is that this other person uses ‘C’ in a circle with the name. They have no idea that it isn’t correct.

I’m glad you’ve touched on this, David. I can remember a few years back when a client asked me to place the ® symbol next to their new logo I designed. I had to research into the matter and let them know it wasn’t legal and could be fined for doing so (UK company).

As for the ™ mark, I reckon people use it ‘cos it because: 1) they can, and 2) sometimes it just looks cool. I use it on my current Design Soak logo for no other reason that I like the way it looks.

I see you’re case, though; there’s no real point of showing the ® or ™ at all in most cases.

Whatever option gets chosen ®, ™ or neither is a brand image communication consideration. It is an approach that impacts on the perception of the brand.

If you own the ® there’s no need to display it unless, for example, you want to communicate a strict ‘hands off’ and that you intend to police your brand tightly. Many brands don’t want to give this impression and are quietly confident that when push comes to shove they’re in as strong a position as they can be from a legal point of view.

On the other hand the ™ is more a statement of intent, irrespective of an actual claim. Or, in some instances, it can serve an aesthetic consideration.

I part own a registered trademark in the UK and we elected to use the ™ instead of the ® because it communicates more overtly that our brand is a brand…

Ignore Me (TM)

I trademark (service mark, actually) for one of my businesses and I can’t think of anytime I’ve ever had to think about it. As I recall, if you feel you need to claim the mark as a TM, you should do so as early as possible, but it affords you slightly less security than a registered TM.

However, as I recall, if someone claims rights to the trademark, and registers it, and then you later discover the mark was registered, but you can prove you were using it first, then you may likely have claims to it even if the other party registered it first.

I think the advantage of registering it is that it may ward off others from using it if they check the registry.. and it does show a paper trail right up to the walls of the gov that you claimed it.

The one that always annoys me is the Yahoo! one on Flickr. It’s bad enough that there’s already a registered trademark and an awkward “from” shoehorned in there, but the tiny pixel at the end make it look like there’s a typo.

We use TM after every instance of the name of our clients who are new to a market and do not yet have high brand recognition. Especially when the name is used in a sentence- in copy or other context. We do so because when readers encounter a new name, the word does not always ring out as a brand name when read in this fashion. The TM signifies “company.” Sometimes, like I imagine is the case for Starbucks, we just keep it indefinitely and consistently for all usages.

If our clients have a highly unique product, that actually has a patented formula, design, process, or other, which is registered (R), we use the insignia without question. The USPTO does not award patents lightly. To even go to the trouble of applying for a patent means you have something really worth protecting.

For our agency, neither the TM or R are used to say “hands off, this is protected.” Rather, they help consumers understand “this is a business name” (TM) and – no joke, this is a patented, unique formula, design, or process you won’t find anywhere else (R).

I’ve always wondered this also. Especially on huge brands, and used to the point of having it in a YouTube video title. Come on, is it really necessary EVERYWHERE?
Some interesting post comments though.

@ Mathew Speakman, Your absolutely correct. Trademarks are official designators of ownership and copyright. However, the trademark helps companies that were not the original producers of the work or have patented formula, design, process which is registered. An artist, writer, painter can always prove copyright ownership for their original pieces of work. It may go to court, but we can all show proof of the original works through drafts, sketches and notes.

It is always recommended to file with the US copyright office. But there still exist intellectual property.

@Matthew: Interesting point. The (high) usage of TM and R in copytext looks mostly very suspicious to me because this practic is mostly jused by suspicious, esoteric websites which want to claim that their brand and/or product is something reliable but the truth is, it’s a racket and not worth a dime … So, this kind of practic makes me sceptic and does not show me that the brand/product is trustworthy.

@Matthew, interesting point.

I’ve always taken a brand I see with a TM or Registration mark more seriously. I believe this to be true with the world at large as well, as in those unaware that you can simply slap a TM on anything. I’ve become so accustomed to seeing the marks attached to brands that carry weight in the marketplace that seeing the same mark attached to an unknown brand instantly gives it some familiarity and influence over an unknown and unclaimed mark. Hopefully that makes sense?

From a design perspective it can be a nightmare, I agree. I’ve designed plenty of brandmarks where the ‘R’ mark wasn’t a consideration until the design was finalized and “throwing it in” at that point felt like a careless afterthought which cheapened the design. To the contrary, if taken into consideration during the planning stages, I have seen the TM and R marks used rather effectively as part of the design solution, whether it be contained within the logo, or used to balance the logo.

In the end I’d imagine most of us are fine so long as there is only one TM or R to be found . . . the brand is still approachable. It’s when the symbol, the wordmark, the tagline, and seemingly everything else surrounding the brand has its own individual mark associated with it, that it’s overkill and ridiculous. That’s when I agree with some of the earlier comments that stated the brand becomes less friendly and too hands off.

Interesting topic, thanks David.

This is a great discussion. All really good points.
To make an example of my earlier point:

The DuPont company makes a material called Tyvek®.
This material is not some generic product like “paper” or “fiber.”
It’s Tyvek®. The ® symbol signifies to consumers that nobody else makes this material. It is a unique, patented material that has a proper name which has been registered by the USPTO.

If I were writing a press release announcing the launch of Tyvek® on behalf of DuPont, it might sound like this:

“DuPont has done it again with an innovative new synthetic material called Tyvek®.”

This is markedly different than, say:

“Starbucks has done it again with a tasty new beverage called coffee.”

The ® communicates the legitimacy of a new product and often a new word to consumers as proprietary.

The same can be said for ™ where it is appropriate.

But do ® and ™ belong next to logos, wordmarks, and taglines in every case? Your client’s legal department will let you know. Personally, I feel once a brand or name has saturation and recognition, you can relax the use of ® and ™.

Nike’s original wordmark and swoosh were heavily laden with ®. Now, you hardly see it. But when Nike announced AIR®, their unique, patented, see-through air cushion, you can be sure they wanted you to recognize the innovation as opposed to the gas we all breathe.

“Nike has done it again with a new footbed cushion called AIR®.”


“Nike has done it again with anew foodbed cushion called air.

“The USPTO does not award patents lightly. To even go to the trouble of applying for a patent means you have something really worth protecting.”

On the contrary, patents are awarded VERY lightly. That’s why every cell phone, software, and gadget company are all simultaneously suing each other. They all have a trove of vaguely-worded patents covering even the most obvious ideas.

It’s an interesting idea because if the mark is registered then would there be any need for it as if someone did take it, they would still get into trouble right? So it’s really just a warning symbol for thieves, or a deterrent like a burglar alarm in which case, I’d say not to have them as then the person thinking of stealing doesn’t know and will be risking it.

The only registered mark I’ve liked is used in the Levis red tag – simple, effective. Almost a logo within itself and easily identifies the brand. Any other good ones out there?

I’m sorry but I dont speak english very well.

Se imaginan a “La Gioconda” con un TM o R?

Se imaginan a “The Beatles” diciendo al final de cada canción…”Esta canción esta protegida por derechos de autor”

Se lo imaginan a Harry Potter diciéndolo?

Porque las empresas tienen que comunicar su derecho de propiedad en primera plana como si fuera un titular de periódico? Acaso no sabemos que tienen un departamento legal que se encarga de estos asuntos?

Uds. se imaginan esa área legal como si fuera el área creativa de la empresa, abogados usando remeras, jeans rotos, zapatillas, etc. “como sea que se imaginen un creativo”

Que derecho tiene la empresa de arruinar la originalidad de un creativo diseñador comunicando aspectos legales y de propiedad?

Pienso que cada cosa tiene que estar en su lugar.

It’s the lawyers like me who tell the designers to add these things in. there is no design point; I assume if the evil suits were not there insisting on the TMs and (R)’s they would quickly vanish.

This is an interesting post, and has clearly spurred lots of discussion. I would note however that many of the comments regarding filing requirements, others “beating you to filing” and the process overall, will be very different depending on the relevant jurisdiction (whether it is a first use or first to file jurisdiction makes a huge difference). Also, just because you have registered a mark in relation to one class of goods or services does not necessarily give the right for you to use the registered symbol in relation to all of your goods/services (if you have a vast array). The fine details are why working with a trademark attorney is invaluable if your business brand is important to you.

When it comes to McDonalds and Starbucks I don’t think a R/TM does them any good. But when it comes to small business trying to look professional (as my customers mostly are) than I think a TM does go very well with the logo. I use a TM in 2 out of 3 logo designs.

@Amanda. No, Starbucks have registered their trademark. It resisted by Starbucks U.S. Brands LLC of Nevada. BUT, they choose to use the TM because they want (despite that they could have used a R if they’d like).

Here’s a question – is the ™/® by the logo equal or superior to the ™/® disclaimer at the bottom of the ad or back page of the brochure? Can the disclaimer stand on its own? Is it enough to claim the logo or trademarked name?

I’ve worked in house for a company that constantly developed new products and dealt constantly with legally protecting our new brands.

According to our lawyers: From a legal visual perspective it is irrelevant wether a TM or ® appears on your logo in terms of ownership. Either you have your brand name and logo protected (or have filed to do so) or you haven’t. Leaving those TM/® marks off your logo does not open the door for others to claim the brand as their own.

However, within the industry, competitors can attempt to register our brand names in other markets before we get around to it. They cannot use the name on their products, but owning the name on another continent, for example, would prevent us from ever expanding there.

Great discussion. I agree adding (TM) or (R) can detract from a logo design. Unfortunately, it is often a legal necessity to protect and build brand value.

@Chelsea makes a good point that a registered trademark protects a mark for a specific range of goods or services only. The famous “Cadillac” dog food case set the precedent. Cadillac dog food used the exact Cadillac car logo on it’s dog food to indicate high quality dog food. The Court allowed this because there was little danger of dog food or its manufacturer being confused with a car and Cadillac had only registered the logo’s use in connection with cars.

(R) is the symbol for a registered trademark filed in the US Patent and Trademark Office. It does not mean the mark or product is patented (there are design patents, but they are not indicated by either a TM or (R). They are indicated by a patent number that begins with D.)

Reasons many food and other companies have TM or (R) all over their packaging include:

1. each logo can be a trademark or a registered trademark depending on how the mark sample or description in the registration is submitted (red arches, golden arches, or [just] arches [implying arches of any color]);

or 2. a logo trademark that is modified or combined with other symbols is either a new mark or a completely unprotected new mark. The exception is wordmarks. Google has registered the word/wordmark Google and its colorful Google logotype. So Google is still protected when it combines or modifies it’s logotype with other items because it can rely on its protected wordmark as long as the combined/modified logo still forms the wordmark “Google”.

The claim of a logo being a trademark can be made by using TM or R as appropriate or having a statement that says something like “the x logo and the word X-words are registered trademarks of X Company”.

If you want virtually everything on a page to be considered a trademark follow the example of comic book publishers (who fiercely and effectively manage their brands) without giving your design work the “measles” of numerous (R)’s and TM’s. “Use of this Website signifies your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.TM & © 2012 Marvel & Subs.” Make sure to see their Terms link.

“The USPTO does not award patents lightly. To even go to the trouble of applying for a patent means you have something really worth protecting.”

The patent system in the United States is broken and needs to be fixed. Toast (thermally freshened bread) and the combover (method for concealing partial baldness) are patented. So is swinging in a swing sideways.

Software patents are issued for things that are obvious and there exists prior art. When sued by the patent trolls, companies that actually produce products and services, usually settle, rather than spend the millions in legal fees it takes to fight.

Some excellent comments from some very informed people. To add some further thoughts from a UK trade mark law perspective:

(1) (R) can only be used in the UK by the owner of a registered trade mark, else it is an offence, which could result in a fine upon conviction.

(2) TM can be used by anyone in the UK, as it is merely a notification to others that the owner regards it as its trade mark.

In addition to acting as a ‘keep off the grass’ sign, using TM can have other benefits from a legal perspective at least. Firstly, if the trade mark (e.g. name) is not initially registrable because, say, it just describes the goods on offer, then owners may be able to get a registration after a few years if they can prove that consumers have now been educated to regard the descriptive word as a trade mark. Using TM alongside the descriptive word can help prove this point.

Second, using TM alongside a unregistered trade mark (either becuase the mark is un-registrable, or the application is pending/as yet unfiled maybe) can help to establish unregistered trade mark rights in the UK (known as passing off rights), again because it indicates that consumers have been told to regard it as the company’s trade mark.

(3) Using (R) or TM does indeed puts competitors on notice that these trade marks are ‘taken’. It also sends out other messages too, such as commuicating to potential investors that the people behind the brand are commercially savvy and have invested in the brand, giving a material value to this asset. Also, I think many people use (R) or TM as a way of enhancing their own commercial credibility.

(4) I should add that the requirements on use of both (R) and TM vary very greatly from country to country, so you should always take legal advice. This jurisdictional variance causes particular headaches on the web, where brands (and so the (R) and/or TM) are seen across the world.

Wow, complete craziness in this post.

1. A patent is NOT a trademark, it is claiming legal ownership over either a design or process for a new unique, non obvious method or apparatus.

2. A trademark is the name, graphic, or combination thereof in which one is doing business under.

3. The most important reason to register a trademark is not just to protect its use, but to create an asset with value. look at car companies that get bought out, like Hummer, all that GM wanted from AM General was the rights to use the NAME. When you register your trademark it becomes a legal asset and can be bought, sold, and even borrowed against. An unregistered name is nothing.

As I understand we are not talking about register or not to register your logo\name as a trademark. You definitely will get benefits from registering trademark, but really … I still don’t see any reason to put those symbols (® and ™) next to the logo, especially if it’s really small.

I am a complete novice in terms of trademarks, so please bear with me! I have a question: if an organisation has several ‘brands’ that they have trademarked with the (R) symbol (in this case a dance organisation that has developed a certain style of dance), is it necessary, when talking about this company and/or its brands in print, to put the (R) symbol every time you mention it?

I would have thought that, if the brand is well known within the industry and everyone knows that it is trademarked, then one wouldn’t have to do so.

Thank you!

If you are using the trademark on a product and have been doing so actively like some of the brands stated above, but not registered, it is still grounds for a legal onslaught if someone rightfully (knowingly) uses it. I heard many lawyers dispute me, but the moment you flash 2k and say I have been actively using this trademark and it can be found online I.E. Google, Yahoo ect.. you have a case. Most attorneys will search Google after they use their TM / copyright registration site to make sure that the tm is not being used actively. The key word is actively. Registration makes the process easier and if someone did infringe, there is less of an investigation that has to take place. In the end, cash is boss.

The reason for using these symbols is to let competitors know that you consider the mark to be your trademark. For Federally Registered marks in the United States, you can use the ® symbol (after granting, not after application). When you use the ® symbol, you may be able to recover attorney fees and other money damages. Failing to use the symbol may prevent these recoveries. Since trademark litigation is usually quite expensive, this can have a real impact for small businesses.

Best Regards,
Andrew Lahser, Patent Attorney
Fountain Hills, AZ

A public company made a press release on 2 products with the circled R and I investigated and they don’t have either registered trademark or have never filed for them. May I file for them and take claim to them? Or would I have no chance of claiming because they used the name (illegally because of the circled R) and would come back saying they used it first?

Scott…. even if someone is using the ® illegally, it still doesn’t mean someone else can swoop in and take the name. It will mean a lot of money legally to prove you were using it before they were and since you aren’t, they would most likely win.

It’s all in the proof.

Would like to hear if there are any consumer aspects of having ® in the logo? I.e. will the brand appear more trustworthy toward it’s customers? Etc.

So… the IRS approves your company name because it hasn’t been used. Then you have original art created for t-shirts and what have you. How does a third layer of red tape help or protect a business? I get doing it for a unique product or if you are trying to be recognized by a piece of art, but a company name? It should be first to market/use, prove it, done. And how in the world can a word that is in the dictionary or a household item or a food be a Registered Trade Mark? I am new to all of this, but totally annoyed by the bull.

I have a question. I run a home based business and have my permits to set up one of the rooms as a shop. The products I sell are wedding and bridal gifts and party supply items and I get them from wholesalers with no names on the items. A friend keeps telling me to get a trade mark for my business and I wanted to know if she’s right. I have a logo on my site that my friend came up with and its a one of a kind, and I do not see anyone having the same logo, yet the products I offer are not mine. I buy in large amounts but I do not think I need a trademark due to the fact I am not a big chain. I am just a retail store that sells the big name products in my shop like others, so I wanted to know if I need to file for any of these registrations. I have my permits for tax, event planner and wedding planner and home base business for the name, and just want to make sure my friend isn’t right.

I have a different perspective on the entire matter, and which is not “Business centric”.

Apart from the products and services of the Business Primary Sector, there are also products and services within the remaining two Primary Sectors, i.e., the NGO+NPO Primary Sector, and the Bureaucratic Primary Sector! The difference between the products and services of the latter two Primary Sectors and the Business Primary Sector being, the products and services of the NGO+NPO Primary Sector are both Nongovernmental and Non-Profit, and the products and services of the Bureaucratic Primary Sector are distinguished from the other two Primary Sectors!

Lastly, the Service Mark can easily be applied to all three Primary Sectors, but, there is a need to “revisit” the entire notion of the “Trade Mark” as such, for although the Service Mark can apply to both the commercial and generic aspects within the context of the Business Primary Sector, the Trade Mark (and by virtue of its name alone) within the Business Primary Sector, is an exclusive Business designation, and rather than establish a wholly new “generic Mark” for the Business Primary Sector, a simpler solution would be to end the use of the Trade Mark, in favor of a “Product Mark”. Then, to apply the notion of the Product Mark to both the conventional Trade Mark notion (i.e., the Trade Mark would be no more!) and to any generic aspects which are distinct from “Trade Products” within the context of Business Primary Sector. And to then apply this same Product Mark to the products within the remaining two Primary Sectors.

And so we would then have a Product Mark designation and a Service Mark designation covering both the “formal product and service aspects” for each of the three Primary Sectors, and the “generic product and service aspects” for each of the Primary Sectors!

Please, no emails!

If you include a copyright, TM or R symbol adjacent to a logo or image, then you are making a direct statement of ownership. Perhaps the likes of Apple, Coca Cola or Nike are so confident about their brand’s established identity that there is no longer a need to assert their logos with a trademark. Smaller companies on the rise don’t have that assurance or luxury when protecting their intellectual properties or designs. Therefore, it is wiser for emerging companies to assert their rights with the appropriate symbol.

Is the logo supported with the TM or R symbol mandatory or obligatory as per trade marks rules or laws? If so, what is the legal provision?

I haven’t seen any mention of their use in rules or manuals or in the guidlines published by the trade marks registry. There must be some provision regarding the use of TM or R. Any idea?

Late to the party.

The TM or R symbols are not mandatory as such in writing, especially when referring to your own trademarks, moreover the R symbol should only be used for items and in jurisdictions where the trademark is actually registered.

Guidelines of use are typically published by the trademark owner. They vary to some degree, but usually boil down to:

Don’t use our Logo ever! (without our explicit permission).

When referring to our trademarked products use the appropriate symbol in prominent use and first time on a page/chapter/slide.

Use the trademark associated with the appropriate generic term (Windows(R) operating system).

Don’t use derivates of our trademark (such as Kellogs instead of Kellog’s or Nikies insted of Nike(R) shoes).

Use extra care when using the trademark with another trademark. For instance dont write Microsoft Photoshop(R), When you mean Adobe(R) Photoshop(R) image editing software for the Microsoft(R) Windows(R) operating system. Although it’s likely you can get away with Adobe Photoshop(R) for Windows(R).

Don’t make it seem like we endorse or support your product when we don’t.

Include our trademark notice: MarkA and MarkB are trademarks or registered trademarks of Company.inc in the United States and other countries. (or something like that)

Whether you’d actually get sued over using the trademarks contrary to guidelines I can’t say, most likely not if it is a reference to their product in a manual but especially if you have some sort of business or interaction with the other company it will look bad if you do not adhere to guidelines.

Naturally, use that would amount to counterfeiting can get you in serious trouble.

Then of course you have companies that write guidelines that you should use the trademark symbol always, in every instance of use in a text but I seldom see that from larger companies with legal deparatments. No one writes like that anyway because it looks so bad. If you want to comply just leave the trademark implicit after first use (with symbol).

I believe Apple Computers reluctance to use the symbol may also have something to do with their long dispute over the Apple brand with Apple Corps (look it up). After a while it just becomes established policy.

The benefit of having the symbol in the logo is that in a trademark dispute, you will have a paper trail (marketing material and packaging) showing that you have used that logo and claimed it as a trademark specifically (it says so in the logo after all) in specific markets, since a certain date.

The trademark symbol TM is typically safer to use if you market internationally but don’t have a registration everywhere.

It’s an interesting thought around the use of the (R) and TM. The main thing to be aware of is that the use of the (R) without proper registration carries exceptionally strict penalties, at the very least large fines. TM is frequently used, traditionally anyway, to signify that a Trade Mark is going through the formal registration process, but not yet officially registered. It’s dangerous to overly use TM if you haven’t filed the relevant paperwork, because you’re essentially alerting competitors to the idea that you’re trying to file your Trade Mark, which without the proper paperwork in the works, isn’t a bluff worth calling.

In any case, there is no less protection not displaying the (R) if you have a registered Trade Mark, than there is with it. In many cases, the logos for major companies have become so small that it’s exceptionally hard to use it, or it just looks odd because it has to be larger.

Where you have to be most careful is in displaying the (R) on logo in that’s a combination of something which is registered used in tandem with something which isn’t. General consensus is that it’s in marketing statements where the (R) symbol is most effectively used as it provides a sense of authenticity to a brand’s Intellectual Property, whereas on the product itself, for example a bicycle frame or phone, it’s highly likely you won’t see it, especially if the brand is trying to convey a minimalist look or the logo is going on an unusual shape.

The best rule of thumb seems to be this though: don’t use your (R) sign, unless you’re sure nothing could be prosecuted for being unregistered in, or immediately around the symbol, and ideally don’t use the TM sign unless your application has been lodged with the relevant authorities.

Also, on the point regarding the ‘relevant’ authorities, be aware of your right to use your registered mark in territories that weren’t included in your registration, but note that you automatically jump the queue by 6 months in other territories from the filing date of your registered Trade Mark, in case you need the time to generate the funds to file in other territories. (China are particularly big when it comes to people falling foul of their (R) in time, particularly useful to register there if you’re potentially going to manufacture in that country.)

Share a thought