Proper Trademark Notice – TM, SM, and R

If you look closely at advertisements, signs, and/or the packaging of many products, you’ll often notice very small versions of the letters TM or the letter R (inside a circle) immediately after companies’ logos or slogans. There is a key difference between the two. When a company wants to indicate to the world that they believe their mark should not be used by others, they may place a very small “TM” (signifying “Trade Mark” for companies that sell products) or a very small “SM” (signifying “Service Mark” for service oriented companies as opposed to companies that sell tangible products) immediately after their mark. While this TM or SM indication serves as a notice to other people not to use their mark, TM or SM does not mean that an official government body has given the displaying entity any legal status to use the mark, so it certainly doesn’t mean that the company displaying the TM or SM is guaranteed to win a court case against a possible infringer. Rather, the use of the TM or SM simply means that the individual or company believes that their wording or image is distinctive to them, though their view is obviously a biased view that may or may not be correct.

On the other hand, if the company or individual places a small R inside a circle after their mark, the use of ® indicates that the USPTO has registered the company or individual an exclusive right to their trademark in the class (industry / sector) to which the company or individual applied. This is called a Principal Register. To say it another way, only companies that have been successfully awarded trademarks by the USPTO may use the R inside a circle, ®. Web Defense Systems and most intellectual property lawyers would highly recommend that companies who have been awarded marks in the Principal Register use the ® as often as possible when they use their mark.

Disclaimer: The purpose of our “Knowledge Base” documents is to explain the basics of the subject matter in question and to provide some rationale behind the actions that Web Defense Systems might take on behalf of our clients. We are not lawyers, and the preceding information should not be used in lieu of legal advice.