There are two main trade symbols, TM and R. These symbol promote a piece of intellectual property and its tradmark status. They distinguish a company’s goods and service. You should use trademark symbol with a range of intellectual property, including brandname, your product names, logos, and your slogan.

TM Symbol stands for the trademark. This is sometimes called a common law trademark or unregistered trademark. Any mark automatically gets a common law trademark once it’s used in commerce. You do not need to file any paperwork or get anyone’s approval to use this symbol. The ™ symbol was first used in the United States and the United Kingdom, but its use has spread throughout the world. While the ™ symbol indicates common law rights, your common law trademark offers less protection than a registered trademark.

The registered Trademark symbol is R. This is the trademark applied to goods and service once the common law trademark is registered with the USPTO.You can only use this symbol with a piece of registered intellectual property used in connected goods and services noted on the federal registration certificate. You can use it where you have common law trademark or trademark pending.

A less common trademark symbol is SM. The symbol stands for service mark. Its common law trademark applied to service, like lawn mowing or manicures, once they are used in commerce. Like the TM symbol, SM can be used freely without filing paperwork. Many people avoid using the symbol SM symbol because it’s not widely understood and the letters SM have undesirable connotations.

Using the Trademark Symbols

Trademark symbols can be a great way to promote your intellectual copy’s trademark on a variety of materials including:

  • Brochures
  • Advertisements
  • Websites
  • Press releases
  • Press articles
  • Company documents

There are no rules about the placement of trademark symbols. However, most trademark holders place the symbols in one of three positions:

  • The upper right-hand corner of a mark
  • The lower right-hand corner of a mark
  • Level with the mark

It’s uncommon and not advisable to place the trademark symbol below, above, or left of your mark. Placing your trademark symbol in a prominent and expected place helps people notice it. You can further set trademarked text apart by writing it in bold, italics, uppercase letters, or even a different typeface.

Reasons to use Trademark symbol

  1. They tell your competitors of your trademark: Trademark symbols tell other businesses in your industry about your trademark on certain pieces of intellectual property including your brand name or logo. This notice may be enough to deter your rivals from infringing on your copyright.
  2. They protect your Trademark Right: If your Trademark is registered using R symbol protects your registration rights. Using the R symbol correctly gives future defendant constructive knowledge of your mark’s registration. It would almost be possible for a defendant to claim they did not know about your trademark. 
  3. They make a mark distinctive: Before your trademark is registered, the TM symbol can help your mark become unique. This can improve your chances of getting the registration later, especially if your mark is difficult to register.
  4. Its the best practice: Using Trademark symbol consistently with your trademark is considered good business practice. They’re conventional and based on the precedent of so many businesses that have come before. There is the certain comfort level for their businesses and customer when they know what to expect from them.

Reasons Not to Use Trademark Symbols

Despite the benefits trademark symbols bring, using them in the United States is optional. U.S. law differs from regulations in Mexico, Chile, the Philippines, and Peru. In these nations, the trademark may be challenged by a third party if a trademark holder doesn’t use the ® symbol. Given that Americans have a choice, it’s important to consider why you might not use the trademark symbol on any given piece of marketing material. Trademark symbols can make a clean piece of marketing material seem cluttered and messy. Using the ™ or ® symbols is optional, so if you feel their use compromises your artistic vision or a document’s readability you can always leave them off. Just remember the benefits of using the trademark symbol provides when making your decision.