How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (2024)

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (1)

This is my complete guide to how to use symbols for trademarks.

Over my 20+ years of practicing trademark law, misuse of trademark symbols is one of the most consistent trademark mistakes I’ve come across. I hope to change that.

In this all-new guide, you’ll learn:

• What the three trademark symbols TM, SM, ® mean

• Whether you are required to use a trademark symbol

• Where you put a trademark symbol

• When to use a trademark symbol with your mark

• Why it’s a good idea to use a trademark symbol

Plus, along the way, we’ll answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about using trademark symbols.

So if you need to quickly learn how to use trademark symbols, read on – this guide is for you.

Let’s get started.

PART I: Basics of Trademark Symbols

• In this part, I’ll briefly discuss the basics of trademarks and review the three trademark symbols.

• In parts II and III, we’ll cover how to use trademark symbols and where to put them.

• But, for now, let’s review the basics of trademark symbols.

What is a trademark?

Trademarks are badges of origin. They distinguish your products or services from the competition. They can take many forms, including names, phrases, symbols, and logos.

Some of the most famous trademarks are:

    • GOOGLE®
    • Nike’s JUST DO IT®
    • the letters IBM®
    • the Apple Logo

What is a symbol for a trademark?

A symbol for a trademark (a trademark symbol) is a visual cue that the name, logo, phrase, or character next to it is a trademark.

There are three trademark symbols in the US: Circle R (®), TM, and SM. These symbols provide “trademark notice” that identifies your trademark and that you claim rights in it.

The answer to the questionWhat is the proper trademark symbol?” depends on whether you are selling a good or a service and the status of a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Read about how to pick the right trademark symbol for your brand here.

What do trademark symbols look like?

The three symbols are:

• the capital letter R, which is usually shown in a circle (®);

• the capital letters TM, which are usually shown in superscript (™); and

• the capital letters SM, which are usually shown in superscript (℠).

What do the trademark symbols mean?

The TM and SM symbols indicate that your trademark is not yet registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In contrast, the ® symbol means that your trademark is registered. The ® is only for trademarks that have been federally registered with the U.S. government. This means that you have filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and have received a trademark registration certificate.

Let’s explore each of the symbols in more detail.

TM symbol meaning

TM stands for trademark. Trademarks are marks used with goods, such as cell phones, clothing, software, and juice. More specifically, the letters TM mean that a name, word, logo, or phrase is an unregistered trademark. If you are selling goods, you should use the TM trademark symbol to identify your unregistered trademark, including names, logos, and phrases.

Who can use the TM symbol?Any trademark owner may use the TM symbol at any time and even if the USPTO refuses an application to register the mark.

When can you use TM?The answer is: you can use the TM symbol immediately – as soon as you start using a trademark to brand a product. This means you can use the TM symbol the first time you use your trademark. Youdo nothave to wait to use the TM symbol.

SM symbol meaning

SMstands for service mark. Service marks are marks used with services, such as legal, dental, restaurant, and entertainment services. More specifically, the letters SM mean that a name, word, logo, or phrase is an unregisteredservice mark. If you are offering services, you should use the SM trademark symbol to identify your unregistered service mark, including names, logos, and phrases.

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (3)

Who can use the SM symbol?Any trademark owner may use the TM symbol at any time and even if the USPTO refuses an application to register the mark.

When can you use TM?The answer is: you can use the SM symbol immediately – as soon as you start using a service mark to brand a product. This means you can use the SM symbol the first time you use your service mark. Youdo nothave to wait to use the SM symbol.

® or “R” symbol meaning

® (or “R” in a circle) stands for registered trademark. Registered trademarks are enhanced trademarks that come with increased protections and rights. More specifically, the registered trademark symbol means that a name, word, logo, or phrase has been registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (4)

When can you use the registered trademark “R” symbol? Use of the registered trademark symbol “R” isreserved for Federal trademarks only and can only be used afteryou have a Federal trademark registration. This means you’ve filed an application and received a registration certificate from the US government.

What are some trademark symbol examples?

Examples of the registered trademark symbol for names and phrases

Twitter®

America runs on Dunkin’®

Pepsi®

Examples of the registered trademark symbol for logos

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (5)

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (6)

Do you have to use a Trademark Symbol?

No, there is no legal requirement to use a Trademark Symbol. The use of Trademark Symbols is entirely optional. You do not need to use a Trademark Symbol, and not using a Trademark Symbol will not invalidate your trademark rights. However, there are many good reasons to use Trademark Symbols.

Why should you use a Trademark Symbol?

Every time you use your trademark, you have the option to use a symbol with it. There is no requirement to use Trademark Symbols. Still, it’s a good idea to use Trademark Symbols for several reasons.

1. Using Trademark Symbols conditions consumers to start looking at your trademark as your brand. This is a meaningful way to introduce your brand to consumers.

2. Using Trademark Symbols lets the competition know you’re claiming the trademark as yours. This is an effective way to ward off potential copying by competitors.

3. If you do not use a trademark symbol, you can lose out on certain money damages like lost profits.

If you have a Federal trademark registration for your brand, you shoulddefinitely use a Trademark Symbol because it lets consumers and competitors alike know that you have aFederaltrademark, which is the highest level of brand protection.

The advantages of trademark symbols are explained in myEasy Guide to Trademark Symbols.

PART II: Where to Put Trademark Symbols

• In this part, we’ll discuss where to put a trademark symbol together with a trademark.

• In part III, we’ll cover when to use trademark symbols in various media.

• But, for now, let’s go over where to put trademark symbols with word marks and logos or designs – with some examples.

Where to put a trademark symbol?

You may put a trademark symbol anywhere around your trademark. There is no one right place. Instead, there is some flexibility. You may place TM, SM, or ® anywhere around your trademark. Still, it is customary to place a trademark symbol after the trademark and on the right side.

Where is the best place to put a trademark symbol?

The best place to put a trademark symbol is close to your mark, regardless of whether your trademark is a name, word, phrase, or logo.

Where exactly does a trademark symbol go?

For names, words, and phrases: The most common place to put a trademark symbol for a name, word, or phrase is in the upper-right corner. In fact, in nearly all cases, trademark symbols (whether it is TM, SM, or ® ) are placed at the top right corner of a trademark. Also, it is common to use superscript for a trademark symbol.

For logos and designs: The most common place to put a trademark symbol for a logo or design is at the logo is in the lower right corner.

Where do you put a trademark symbol on a logo?

For logos, it is best to place the trademark symbol on the right side of the logo. It is best to locate the TM, SM, or®directly after the mark and near the bottom of the logo.Alternatively, you can put the TM, SM, or®in the logo.

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (8)

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (9)

Where do you put a trademark symbol with a name or phrase?

For word marks, including names and slogans or catchphrases, it is customary to place the trademark symbol on the right side of the mark. Also, it is best to locate the TM, SM, or ® directly after the mark and at the upper right in superscript.

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (10)

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (11)

How should you use a Trademark Symbol in writing?

If your mark is a company or product name, you can put the Trademark Symbol immediately after the name. Here, representing the symbol in superscript is very common because it looks like the symbol is at the upper right of the name.

If your trademark is a logo, you can put the Trademark Symbol in the upper right corner of the logo or at the upper right side of the logo.

How should you use a Trademark Symbol on a product?

If your mark is a company or product name, you can put the Trademark Symbol immediately after the name. Here, representing the symbol in superscript is very common because it locates the symbol at the upper right of the name.

If your trademark is a logo, you can put the Trademark Symbol in the logo or at the upper right side of the logo.

To summarize the correct placement of trademark symbols

Proper trademark symbol usage involves two main rules.

First, pick the correct trademark symbol.

Second, put the symbol in the right place so that it (1) identifies your trademark and (2) notifies the public that you claim ownership of your trademark.

Location matters for trademark symbols.

TM symbol placement

You put the TM symbol to the right side of your trademark and either in the:

upper-right corner if your trademark is a word; or

lower-right corner if your trademark is a logo.

R symbol placement

You put the R symbol to the right side of your trademark and either in the:

upper-right corner if your trademark is a word; or

lower-right corner if your trademark is a logo.

PART III: When to Use a Trademark Symbol

In this part, we’ll explore when to use a trademark symbol with your trademark and how often you need to use a symbol.

When to use a trademark symbol?

You should use a trademark symbol when you want to let consumers and competitors know that you claim ownership of your mark. They provide public notice or “trademark notice” and serve as visual cues that help identify your trademarks. Also, you can use a trademark symbol every time you use your trademark.

You may use a trademark symbol anywhere around your trademark, although most trademark owners put the symbol in a superscript or subscript to the right of their trademark.

You can use “TM” for goods or “SM” for services. After you have registered your trademark, you can use an ® with the trademark (regardless of whether you sell goods or services).

Do you have to use a trademark symbol every time you use a trademark?

No. You arenotrequired to use a trademark symbol every time you use a trademark. Instead, you can usually focus on using the symbol the first time the mark appears, in the most prominent place the mark is used (e.g., in a heading), or both. Repeated use of trademark symbols can become cluttered.A Trademark Symbol does not have to be used every time a trademark is used.

How often should you use a Trademark Symbol?

As a general rule, it is best to use a Trademark Symbol in the first prominent mention of a trademark in the text of a web page or written documents like articles, press releases, promotional materials, and the like. It is not necessary to use a Trademark Symbol every time used every time the mark appears. This avoids distraction and clutter.

When exactly should you use a Trademark Symbol?

You should use a Trademark Symbol at the first or most prominent mention of a trademark. Again, it is not necessary to use a Trademark Symbol every time used every time you use your trademark. One good, conspicuous use of the proper Trademark Symbol is usually all that is required.

Use of a trademark symbol in text

    1. In print materials (press releases, articles, and company reports)

For shorter printed materials (closer to 1-2 pages), using a trademark symbol with the first instance of the mark is sufficient. For extended printed materials, it is typically advisable to use the trademark symbol at least once per page in which the mark appears. Also, if there is an opportunity to use the trademark symbol with the trademark in a header or footer, all the better.

    1. In websites and mobile apps

On the web, it is typically advisable to use a trademark symbol in the header or footer on every page that relates to your product or service.

    1. On social media

The guidelines for using trademark symbols on social media are usually more relaxed. Most businesses only use a trademark symbol in their username/bio, cover image, or thumbnail.

Ready to take the next step toward LEGALLY owning your brand?

We have a simple, 5 step process we use to help our clients secure their trademarks. If you’re interested in protecting the trademarks that represent your brand, we invite you tobook a FREE brand protection strategy session with us here.

How to Use Trademark Symbols: The ULTIMATE Guide (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Virgilio Hermann JD

Last Updated:

Views: 5929

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Virgilio Hermann JD

Birthday: 1997-12-21

Address: 6946 Schoen Cove, Sipesshire, MO 55944

Phone: +3763365785260

Job: Accounting Engineer

Hobby: Web surfing, Rafting, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Ghost hunting, Swimming, Amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Virgilio Hermann JD, I am a fine, gifted, beautiful, encouraging, kind, talented, zealous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.