What does the TM symbol mean?

The TM symbol placed next to a mark is meant to put the public on notice that the owner considers that particular mark to be proprietary. In other words, the owner is claiming rights to that mark.

Not all marks are protectable, and the fact that a company placed a TM symbol next to a term or slogan does not necessarily mean that they have the right to stop others from using the term. Nonetheless, it is useful to know at least where a competitor is coming from if you see the TM symbol next to a term that you’re thinking of using, unless you have a strong argument that you making fair use of the term.

Does the TM symbol mean that a trademark application has been filed?

No, the TM symbol does not necessarily signify that a trademark application is pending. In fact, it is entirely lawful to use the TM symbol to signify unregistered common law rights to a mark for which federal registration has not been applied.

What is the difference between TM and SM symbols?

Both TM and SM symbols serve the same purpose: providing notice that a owner considers a particular mark to be proprietary. When a mark is used in connection with services, the mark is technically called a service mark. So, the SM symbol is appropriate for marks used in connection with offering services while the TM symbol is appropriate for marks used in connection with goods.

What does the circle R symbol (®) mean?

The circle R symbol (®) means that a mark is federally registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, either on the Principal Register or Supplemental Register.

When is it OK to use the circle R symbol?

Do not use the ® symbol if you have not yet secured a federal registration of your mark. Filing a trademark application alone does not entitle you to use the circle R symbol.

If you are launching new products under a new mark and need to file a Statement of Use for an Intent-To-Use application, make sure the mark shown on the product or packaging omits the circle R symbol. In filing a Statement of Use, it would be acceptable to submit specimens showing the TM or SM symbol.

How to use the ® symbol

The ® symbol is typically placed in the upper right hand corner or lower right hand corner of a mark that is registered with the USPTO.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Chair at Innovation Capital Law Group
We love working with startups and small businesses. I help entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property so they can reach their business goals.

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