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Which Trademark Symbols Can You Use and Why? ®️™️ SM

If you are reading this, you are likely wondering when you can start using the famous ®️ trademark symbol for your brand name, logo or tagline. Since it can be confusing to even the most savvy business owner, let’s walk through the various trademark symbols available and when you can use them.

REGISTERED TRADEMARK ®️ - This is the big daddy trademark symbol - the one you want. It means that you have a registered trademark with the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Registered trademarks are the best kind, because they provide a ton of benefits that you cannot get without your mark being registered officially with the USPTO. The biggest benefit is that you own exclusive rights to your mark in your class of goods and services (basically your industry, with possible exceptions that we won’t get into for purposes of this discussion).

Another big benefit of a registered mark is that you have legal remedies at your disposal if someone infringes on your trademark intentionally or accidentally. The most important remedy available is the right to an injunction - that means a court could force the infringer to stop using their infringing mark immediately. That is a pretty powerful remedy. You also get access to money damages if someone is profiting off of a mark that is confusing similar to your registered mark. And, if they are found to be infringing on your rights knowingly, they could end up having to pay your expenses and attorney fees for having to go after them, as well as “treble damages” - meaning 3x the amount of your financial harm. E.g. if someone profited $1000 from the infringement of your trademark, and they knew or should have known your mark was registered, they would have to pay you $3000 in damages. Basically, people who intentionally infringe on others marks get penalized. It is a way to discourage people from trying to steal other’s intellectual property.

So the remedies available to registered trademark owners are powerful, and you should want that important ®️ next to your trademark.But only registered marks can use that coveted®️ trademark symbol. So if you have not received a registered trademark, you can’t use this symbol.

COMMON LAW TRADEMARK (™️) - this is the symbol you use if you are claiming ownership of your trademark for goods or products you sell, but have not yet filed with the USPTO for registration. It does not provide the powerful remedies that a registered trademark provides, but using it does put the world on notice that you are claiming exclusive rights in that mark. What makes that powerful is that if you use the ™️ symbol, and it is out there in the public domain ( like on your website, or in advertising or social media), if someone infringes on your claimed trademark and you do end up getting registered in the meantime, you can then use that as evidence of intentional infringement. Remember from above that you can get awarded attorneys fees, expenses and treble damages from someone who intentionally infringes on your trademark. So you should always want to get a registered mark, but as you are waiting for it, you an use the ™️ trademark symbol as a part of your toolbox for protecting your trademark rights.

SERVICE MARK (SM) - This trademark symbol is actually specifically for service providers who do not yet have a registered trademark. Service providers include law firms, accountants, doctors, cleaning services, DJ services, party planning services, interior designers, architects, etc…. And if you offer services and eventually did get a registered service mark, you would use the ®️ but you would refer to your mark still as a service mark (versus a trademark).

One more thing: do NOT use the ®️ symbol unless you have a registered trademark. Doing so could create grounds for the USPTO to reject your subsequent trademark application. It is actually a violation of federal law to use the ®️ symbol prematurely.

So that is what you need to know about the various trademark symbols and when you can use each kind.

If you need help securing your registered trademark (which we strongly recommend), we would be honored to assist you. Just reach out to us to set up a free 30 minute consultation call with our founder and managing attorney, Jessica Eaves Mathews, Esq.


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