There are several different types of symbols people use to indicate trade marks
This quick guide provides an outline to the different symbols, plus when and why they're used.
Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry
Introduction: Trade Mark Symbols
If you're a business owner or entrepreneur, it's important to understand the importance of trademark symbols and how they can help protect your intellectual property. Some symbols legally require a registered trade mark to use, whereas others indicate that the company considers the brand asset a trade mark and is likely set to register it.
Notably, while it's possible to conduct a trademark search or register a trademark on your own, it's generally recommended to work with expert intellectual property (IP) lawyers who can help maximize upside and limit risk.
Here's what you need to know:
Types of Trademark Symbols
There are several different trademark symbols that companies may use to indicate their intellectual property. Each symbol has a specific meaning and purpose.
The TM symbol stands for "trademark" and is used to indicate that a word, phrase, logo, or other design is being used as a trademark, but has not yet been registered with the relevant trademark office.
This symbol is commonly used by companies that are in the process of applying for a trademark registration or that use their trademark without registering it.
Example: A company that creates a new product and uses a distinctive name or logo on the packaging may use the TM symbol to indicate that the name or logo is intended to function as a trademark, but the registration process is not yet complete.
Registered Trademark Symbol (®)
The registered trademark symbol is used to indicate that a trademark has been registered with the relevant trademark office.
This symbol can only be used for trademarks that have been officially registered, and it is technically an IP violation to denote an unregistered brand with the symbol.
Example: A company that has registered its logo with the relevant trademark office may use the ® symbol on its website, social media pages, and other marketing materials to indicate that the logo is a registered trademark – and notify others of the same.
Service Mark Symbol (SM)
The service mark symbol is used to indicate that a word, phrase, logo, or other design is being used as a service mark, which is a type of trademark that is used to identify and distinguish the services of one company from those of another.
Example: A company that provides consulting services may use a distinctive name or logo to identify its services and use the SM symbol to indicate that the name or logo is being used as a service mark.
Other IP Symbols and indications
In addition to the TM, ®, and SM symbols, there are other symbols that companies may use to indicate and willingness to enforce their IP, such as the copyright symbol (©) or the patent symbol (Patent Pending). These symbols are not specifically trademark symbols but may be used in conjunction with trademark symbols to indicate other types of intellectual property protection.
As above, indicating these are not necessarily required, but act to express ownership over the IP; and, implicitly, a willingness to enforce it should infringement occur.
Example: A company that has developed a new invention may use the patent symbol (Patent Pending) to indicate that a patent application has been filed, while also using the TM or ® symbol to indicate that a trademark is being used to identify the product or brand associated with the invention.
Why are Trademark Symbols Important?
Crucially, the indication of trade marks using symbols in this way expresses to the public that these marks (whether logos, names, colours or otherwise) are considered trade marks and will be enforced as such.
Ultimately, denoting trade marks and other forms of IP in this way acts as a deterrent for would-be infringers, alongside strong enforcement of infringement as and when it occurs.
Trademark Search and Registration
If you're interested in registering a trademark or conducting a trademark search, it's generally recommended to work with expert IP lawyers who can guide you through the process and help you avoid potential pitfalls. This is especially important if you're working on an international level, where the rules and regulations can vary widely depending on the country.
Working with expert IP lawyers can help you maximize upside and limit risk by:
- Conducting a thorough trademark search: A comprehensive trademark search can help you avoid potential infringement issues and ensure that your trademark is unique and defensible.
- Registering your trademark: A trademark registration can help protect your intellectual property and give you exclusive rights to use your trademark in connection with your products or services.
- Enforcing your trademark: If someone infringes on your trademark, expert IP lawyers can help you take legal action to enforce your rights and protect your intellectual property.
In conclusion, trademark symbols are an important tool for protecting your intellectual property and distinguishing your brand in the marketplace. While it's possible to conduct a trademark search or register a trademark on your own, working with expert IP lawyers can help you maximize upside, and limit risk.
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Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.