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In the trademark world lots of symbols are associated with a lot of different meanings. For example, the TM symbol (TM), the copyright symbol (©), the service mark symbol (SM)and the R symbol (®). What do these marks mean and are you using them correctly?

The R Symbol ®

The R in a circle symbol denotes a registered mark with the USPTO and can only be used for registered marks. It is good practice to use this symbol with your registered mark(s) so that you put others on notice that this mark is federally registered. The R symbol should only be used by the owner of the mark or its licensee. Click here to find how to register your mark(s) with the USPTO.

The TM Symbol TM

The TM symbol can be used by any person or business to indicate that a particular word, phrase, or logo serves as an identifier for the source of that product or service. The TM symbol cannot be used on federally registered marks. Usually people use the TM symbol if they are considering registration for a given mark or if their trademark application is in process with the USPTO. It is used to the word on notice that you’re claiming this trademark, even if it’s not registered. Using this symbol may help a mark that is too descriptive gain distinctiveness in the marketplace.

The SM Symbol SM

The sub-script SM indicates a service mark and has a similar meaning to the TM symbol. The SM symbol is used for unregistered service marks. This symbol is more popular in the United States; the TM symbol is used for both goods and services in other countries.

The C Symbol ©

The C symbol signifies a copyrighted creative work, such as creating art, music, video, writing, a picture, etc. This symbol can be seen on books, websites, movies, and television shows. Use of the copyright notice informs the public that the work is protected by a copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. For example:
• © 2015 Microsoft
• © 1997-2015 Netflix, Inc.
Click here for more information on how to submit a copyright application.

Why use symbols? Why does it matter?

Using symbols, such as the TM symbol, is a personal and strategic maneuver. If your mark is not registrable with the USPTO because it’s too descriptive, then using the TM symbol could potentially allow you to gain distinctiveness among consumers without registration. Using these mark symbols also puts potential infringers on notice that you take your brand and/or services seriously.

If you do decide to use any of these symbols, make sure you use them correctly and that you are authorized to use them.

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