Author: Enrico Schaefer
Clients and prospective clients alike are often confused as to which trademark symbol they can use and when. There are various options available. First, the registered ® symbol, which is displayed in superscript form next to the mark with a capital R enclosed by a circle. Second, is the ™ symbol, which is displayed in superscript form next to the mark with capitol T and a capital M. Third, is the service mark symbol known as ѕм, which is displayed in superscript form next to the mark with a capital, S and a capital M. Trademark owners should not use these interchangeably as each has a very specific meaning.
The registered R symbol is reserved for trademarks that are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However the registered R symbol, it is not only reserved for trademarks that are registered with the USPTO but also for service marks that are registered with the USPTO. . Keep in mind, the only difference between a trademark and a service mark is that the mark is used with goods or products for a trademark, where as the mark is used with services for a service mark.
There is only one kind of registered symbol, and that is the registered ® symbol. A similar symbol, with a very different meaning, is the copyright symbol, which is epitomized by a small c with a circle around it, or © That is for copyrights only and should never be used with a trademark to identify designation, although it may be displayed if indeed the logo or other design is subject to both copyright and trademark protection. People should also understand that the registered trademarks symbol may also be used on marks that are not registered with the USPTO if they are registered in other countries. Therefore, it usually takes researching and, effort to determine whether or not the registered ® symbol is referring to a United States federally registered trademark or some other trademark registered in a foreign jurisdiction.
As for the ™ and ѕм symbols, anyone who is claiming common law trademark or common law service mark rights may use such a symbol. Designating a particular term or phrase with the ™ or ѕм symbol places others on notice that you are claiming exclusive rights to that mark in, connection with the underlying goods or services. Typically, prior to obtaining a federal trademark registration, trademark and service mark owners will use the ™ and ѕм symbols, respectively. You should understand that your claim of exclusive rights in a mark by use of these symbols caries with it legal significance. Therefore, you should be sure that you are using the right symbols and in appropriate circumstances.
Unfortunately, these symbols may not always be used on character marks, logo and design marks, or other marks. Obviously, not all marks can be subject to the display of these kinds of symbols. In those instances, attribution statements and ownership statements will help identify when someone is claiming exclusive rights to a particular mark. For example, sound marks or where marks are used in nontraditional marks used in various forms of advertising maybe, best served to use a statement that identifies the owner of the mark in addition to the mark itself.
Any trademark attorney should be able to advise you concerning the use of these symbols and how to incorporate them along with any attribution or, ownership statements, in an way that is not distracting from the underlying branding while all the same time ensuring all legal requirements are met.