So you’ve rounded yerself up some prime products and services and staked out some real estate on the web, and now you’re ready to stamp your brand on everything you own. We’re talkin’ about trademark, podners. Instead of using a hot iron to make your mark, you should be using all them special little symbols you see connected with brands:
™, ℠ and ®
But first, what in tarnation are these symbols for? The different symbols used to represent trademark — ™, ℠ and ® — serve to put would-be infringers on notice that the mark in use is, or may soon be, a protected mark. In other words, hands off, varmints!
But how do you know which one to use and when?
The ™ Symbol
This little fella is used in connection with the sale of goods, and puts the rest of the world on notice that you— as an individual or entity—have claimed rights in whatever term, logo, or slogan as a trademark. However, it also means that although you’ve staked your claim, your trademark has not yet been registered, and its use doesn’t guarantee that the mark will be protected under trademark laws. So, anyone who is interested in your mark, upon seeing the ™ will understand that you’ve staked your claim, but might check in on your registration process either to oppose your registration on some basis, or to see if your registration is rejected.
The ℠ Symbol
This little guy is a lot like the ™ symbol, but you would use it in connection with services, instead of goods. Also like the ™ symbol, use of ℠ gives notice of your claim on the mark, but is no guarantee that the mark will be protected under trademark laws.
The ® Symbol
This dude is the ®eal deal. You use the ® symbol once your mark as actually been registered. It provides constructive notice to all those players out there that you have legal ownership over the mark, and that they should check themselves before they wreck themselves. (In this case wrecking themselves would mean infringing on your mark, but you probably got that, right?).
Each of these symbols usually appear along side the mark itself in superscript. If you’re not into the whole superscript thing, then you can use the phrase “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.” in lieu of the ®, which performs the same function. (But seriously, how could you not be into superscript? It’s like the puppies and kittens of regular-sized font—super adorable.)
So don’t just go around slapping these symbols all over things willy nilly! Each one means something, and has an important use in protecting your brand.
Keep in mind that the above only applies to trademarks and registration within the U.S. Plus, trademark law is complicated, with plenty of twists and turns and gopher holes, so don’t take any of this as legal advice. Instead, if you are looking for info on trademarks outside of the U.S., check out The International Trademark Association for more information. If you are unsure about the status of a symbol you have seen in relation to a mark, or how to use a symbol for your own mark, consult a skilled trademark attorney (that'd be us!).
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