As a trademark attorney, I find my clients often start off confused about the two different trademark symbols: the superscript TM (™) and the circled “R” (®). The confusion usually stems from the question of which one they can use and why they should use one of the symbols. This quick guide is designed to answer those questions, as well as alleviate some of the pain of having to use insert character each time you want to insert one of the trademark characters in your documents.
Why Do I Need to Use a Trademark Symbol?
When I advise trademark clients who are just starting to build their brands, I find this is a common question. For some, they like the pristine look of their logo, completely untouched by the trademark symbols. Others simply don’t even know the symbols exist, let alone why they need to use them. Nevertheless, the reason why you need to use the trademark symbols in association with your brand is to make sure your competitors know your brand is trademarked property owned by your business. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that using a trademark symbol in association with your brand is not necessary for trademark protection (and the United States Patent and Trademark Office actually requires you to strip the trademark symbol from your logo when you apply for trademark registration), but putting your competition on notice that your mark is considered a trademark serves an important function. When your competitors know your brand is trademarked, they tend to treat it with more seriousness and respect—in other words, they know not to copy your name, logo, slogan, or other trademarked mark lest they face civil penalties.
Using the ® symbol adds additional benefits—but you’ll need to read on to see if you qualify to use this symbol in the first place. The ® shows the world that not only is your brand trademarked, but that you’ve taken that extra step to register your trademark with the appropriate agency (whether its the USPTO or WIPO). And beyond that, if you find yourself as the plaintiff in trademark infringement litigation, the question of whether you were using the ® symbol in association with the infringed-upon mark can make all the difference if you’re seeking statutory damages and attorney fees.
Oh, but what about the black sheep of the trademark symbol family, the service mark symbol (SM). Well, you use that just as you would the ™ symbol, but for services instead of products.
In short, use that trademark symbol whenever and wherever you can, provided you’re not using them improperly.
Which Trademark Symbol Should I Use?
And whether you’re using the symbol properly or not depends entirely on whether your trademark is registered. If your trademark isn’t registered with the USPTO or WIPO, you can only use the ™ symbol in association with your brand, as the ™ symbol historically denotes something is a common law (unregistered) trademark. Trademark registration, on the other hand, allows you to start using the ® symbol in association with your brand. But here’s the kicker—you can only use the ® symbol on trademarks that are listed on the registration certificate(s) you’ve received from the USPTO or WIPO.
There are just two things to keep in mind. First, you can’t use the ® symbol if you’ve only applied for registration—you have to wait until the registration process is completed and you’ve actually been issued a certificate of registration. Second, a registration through the USPTO does not grant the right to use the ® symbol overseas and registration through WIPO (via the Madrid Protocol) does not grant the right to use the ® symbol in the United States (but you can use it in any of these countries provided you’ve registered there).
How Do I Insert the Trademark Symbols?
Adding the trademark symbols using keyboard shortcuts is super easy, and once you learn them, you’ll never go back to using that pesky insert character window ever again. Here’s the secret:
Option+2 for the ™ symbol.
Option+R for the ® symbol.
Ctrl+Alt+T for the ™ symbol.
Ctrl+Alt+R for the ® symbol.
- And for you web designers and developers:
™ for the ™ symbol.
® for the ® symbol.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to insert a service mark symbol. What I recommend is to just type SM, highlight it, and then set it to superscript so it gets raised up above the type like the ™ symbol.
Where Do I Put the Trademark Symbols?
Now that you know how to insert a trademark symbol, there’s just one question left: where do I put the trademark symbols in relation to my brand’s name or logo. Well, if you’re placing the symbol next to your name, the answer is easy: just place it after your brand name. Let’s use Apple as an example, since they have one of the more comprehensive lists of trademarks. As you can see, Apple throws the registered trademark and common law trademark symbols directly after their brand name, like so: Apple® or AirPrint™. You don’t even need to include a space between the brand name and the trademark symbol, and whether you want to use superscript or not with the ® symbol is entirely up to you.
The tricky part comes when you’re applying a trademark symbol to a logo. As with words in a sentence, as described above, the most common place to insert a trademark symbol next to a logo is to include the symbol as a superscript to the top right of the logo. Stylistically, however, this doesn’t always look appropriate, so some companies have taken to placing the symbol towards the bottom of the logo, which is totally fine. As long as you’re including the symbol in association with your brand to notify customers and competitors your brand is trademarked (registered or not), you’re on the right track. Do keep in mind, however, that you should always include the symbol to the right of the logo, not to the left.
I hope this post helped answer some of the questions about how to best use the trademark symbols. If you have any other questions about how to use the trademark symbols with your brand or you’re interested in registering a trademark, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Latest posts by Eric Norton (see all)
- Buying Trademark Assets: Does the Seller Really Own Them? - January 13, 2015
- The Benefits of a Benefit Corporation - December 10, 2014
- Online Sales Tax: What Small Business Owners Need to Know - December 2, 2014