We get asked this question all the time. So in this timely article we decided to clear up the confusion once and for all as to the differences between these 2 symbols, what they represent and when they should be used by you.
What does the ™ symbol mean?
When someone uses the ™ symbol, they are asserting that they own the trademark rights to the particular “mark” that the symbol is applied to. This might be a brand name, word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging or a combination of any of these.
™ stands for “trademark”. Trademarks are what a trader uses to distinguish its goods and services from those of other traders. Getting a bit more technical, a trademark can either be a registered trademark (one that is recorded on the national register of trademarks) or an unregistered trademark, sometimes referred to as a “common law” trademark.
When can I use the ™ symbol?
This is what surprises our clients the most – you can use the ™ symbol at anytime, as long as you really are the true owner of that trademark that you are applying it to. You don’t necessarily need to have that trademark registered, but you do have to at least own the common law rights to that trademark (otherwise your use of the symbol could be claimed to be misleading, not to mention an infringement of the true owner’s rights).
Then what does ® mean?
The ® symbol is a way of telling the world that you have an officially registered trademark, that has been accepted and listed on the national register of trademarks. By law, you cannot use the ® symbol unless you have an official trademark registration, so we advise our clients that they must not start using the ® symbol until they have reached the final stage of their trademark application.
An easy way to remember this is to think of the ® as standing for the word “registered”.
Can I really start using the ™ at any time? Is there any risk for me?
Subject to the exceptions we have outlined above, yes, you can use the ™ at any time, but practically speaking there is still some risk if you haven’t done the appropriate checks to make sure you are not breaching someone else’s rights.
For any one that is starting to use a mark as a trademark, there is always the risk that someone else may have started using that mark first! If that is the case, and they are using that mark for similar goods or services that you intend to use your mark for, then your use is likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of that trademark owner.
We always advise clients to have the appropriate checks and searches conducted before adopting a brand or mark, to give you the peace of mind that you are not investing marketing dollars, time and building up goodwill in a mark that turns out to be a risky choice because of it’s similarity to a mark belonging to another trader.
And of course, one of the best ways to get that peace of mind, is to register your trademark.
If you have any questions about this article, or about the topic area, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We are always more than happy to answer any questions you might have about trademarking, trademark searching, or any other trademark or brand protection questions you may have.
Disclaimer: The material contained on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not depend upon any information appearing on this website without seeking legal advice. We do not guarantee that the contents of this website will be accurate, complete or up-to-date.