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When Should I Use a Registered Trademark Symbol?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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You can use a registered trademark symbol as soon as you have officially registered your trademark with an appropriate government agency. Prior to this registration, you should use the unregistered trademark or service mark symbols, as this usage is often necessary to help demonstrate a trademark during registration. There is a great deal of information about a trademark you will need to provide when you register your mark, including evidence that demonstrates your established usage of the mark. This evidence should use the unregistered mark, which will help your trademark or service mark become registered and allow you to use the registered trademark symbol.

The registered trademark symbol, ®, is a symbol that indicates that a particular product or service in business is protected as a registered trademark. This symbol is used for both trademarks and service marks, though they have separate unregistered symbols. A trademark is a form of intellectual property that grants ownership over a particular logo, phrase, or other identifier that is going to be used in business to indicate a product offered by a particular company. Service marks are similar in nature, but are used to indicate a service offered by a company, and both types can be indicated with the same registered trademark symbol.

Prior to the official registration of a trademark or service mark, the registered trademark symbol should not be used, and use of it can potentially be grounds for legal action against a company by a government agency. This is because the registered trademark symbol is used to indicate that a trademark or service mark is protected by a particular government. Registration of a trademark is usually handled through a government agency such as the US Patent and Trademark Office or the Intellectual Property Office of the UK. This registration process often includes filing paperwork that demonstrates how the trademark or service mark is to be used, including examples of its use in an established way.

You should use the non-registered versions of these marks prior to your use of the registered trademark symbol. For trademarks, you should use the familiar TM or ™ symbol or SM for a service mark. This will demonstrate that you have begun to establish the logo or phrase you wish to use as a trademark or service mark to be identified with your business. Once your trademark or service mark registration is complete and accepted, then you can begin using the registered trademark symbol on your products and advertisements.

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Discussion Comments

By serenesurface — On Jan 31, 2015

@discographer-- In order to use the R symbol, an individual has to have their brand registered. But after registering, there is no requirement to use the trademark symbol. You may or you may not, it's up to you. Most people choose to though because using the trademark symbol is a way of warning others that this brand name is registered and if they try to use the same brand, there will be a case of infringement against them.

Let's say that you don't use the trademark symbol and someone else decides to adopt and use the same name for their business. If in the future, you want to sue that person for copyright infringement, you may lose because you did not use your trademark symbol. If the other business didn't know that the brand was registered, they can't be blamed.

That's the whole idea behind using these symbols.

By discographer — On Jan 30, 2015

I recently had my brand registered. So now I can use the R in a circle trademark symbol. What I'm wondering is, should I use it everywhere and every time my brand gets mentioned? There are cases when in marketing ads where the trademark doesn't look so good. But if I don't use it, will that be a problem and will the US Patent and Trademark Office take action?

By fify — On Jan 30, 2015

I had no idea of the difference between TM and R symbols of trademark. I assumed that they were more or less the same. These symbols are used often and we see them everyday. This also explains why I see far more TM symbols than R symbols. Practically everyone with a brand can use the TM symbol. They don't need approval or authorization from any agency. But R requires authorizations, so we usually only see the R symbol with well known, big brand names.

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