Trademark Symbols: Which One Do You Use

Christelle Lyman

Trademark symbolsI was recently asked to add a trademark symbol to a logo for a client. When looking at the special characters for trademarking ( ™, ®, ℠) I wanted to make sure that I provided the client with the proper legal trademark symbol. As it turns out, there is a big difference between the symbols and their function.

What is a Trademark?

The United States Trademark and Patents Office defines a trademark as “A word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” According to the above definition, a logo’s commercial usage alone makes it a trademark.

What does adding the Trademark symbol (™) do?

When the ™ is visible on a logo, it’s simply to give notice of ownership of rights to that logo. You don’t actually have to apply for federal registration to use the ™ symbol. Using the ℠ is a service mark, which applies to services as opposed to goods, for which the ™ is used for. But ™ is commonly used for both services.

The ™ symbol offers no legitimate legal protection—no more than what is already offered under Common Law. Common-Law rights state that merely using the logo gives a business the rights to it. It may also deter infringement, but common law trademark rights are geographically limited and difficult to enforce.

What is the Registered Trademark (®)?

When the ® is in usage, it means a business has gone through the process of registering its trademark. Typically, a business submits an intent-to-use application before a business/product launches. The trademark isn’t official until the Patent Office completes its review and approval of the application. The application process can be lengthy and expensive, and it can also require legal counsel in some cases.

A couple of things to think about in the process of registering:

-Is it registerable?
-How difficult is it to protect your mark based on its strength?

The USPTO examines every application for compliance with federal law and regulations. The most common reason an application may be refused is the likelihood of confusion with another already registered trademarked logo belonging to another business. In addition to selecting a mark that is not likely to be confused with any pre-existing marks, it’s a good practice to select a mark that is considered “strong” or distinctive, in a legal or trademark sense—a mark that will allow you to prevent third-party use of your mark.

In what cases would you avoid registering?

-Your logo is similar in nature to another logo.
-Your logo may change in a couple of years. Only the exact logo is what is trademarked. Any variations make it harder to protect legally.
-You aren’t sure how long your business will be in practice. The application process averages just under one year to complete. Basic filing fees can be expensive (average minimum filing fee of $325 without legal counsel).

Where is the best place to put the Trademark Symbol?

The best practice is to put the symbol in the upper right-hand corner. If you put the symbol in the most likely place for people to find, it will increase the understanding of your intent and claim on the logo, guarding against infringement.

How do I find or make Trademark and/or Registered Trademark Symbols?

  • Windows System: Use the keyboard combination of pressing the [Alt] key followed by the keypad number sequence of “0153” to insert the TM symbol or “0174” to insert the registered trademark symbol.
  • Mac System:  Hold the [Option] and “2” keys will render the trademark sign, and hold [Option] and “R” at the same time to produce the registered trademark symbol.
  • Finding the symbols/characters in your program/language:
    • Adobe Illustrator and InDesign: Select “Type” from the menu > Insert Special Character > Symbols
    • Microsoft Word: Select Insert from the Menu > Advanced Symbol or Special Characters
    • HTML: Trademark is “ &trade”, and the Registered Trademark is  “&reg”

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