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Trademark News

What is TM, SM, Ⓡ and Ⓒ?

Registered marks, trademarks, service marks and copyright. Chances are you’ve come across these in the newspaper, or in a conversation. However, can you tell the differences of these terms?

First of all, ™ is used to help identify an unregistered trademark. Therefore, until you have a certificate of registration, you should only use this symbol instead of ®. Although unregistered trademarks enjoy some protection under the law, registered trademarks offer much stronger protection. For example, while the protection an unregistered trademark offers may span only in the geographic location where the business owner is using it whereas registered trademarks can be enforced all across the U.S.

℠ is for service marks before registration. Service marks are used to identify services rather than products. After the mark is registered, the ® mark (the same used for registered trademarks) replaces it. They can be both audio and visual trademarks.  Common examples of service marks include the MGM lion roar and the placing of logos on vehicles.

®, or the registered mark symbol, is used when the work is a trademark that has been registered by the USPTO. This also means the work is legally protected. Using this mark when the work hasn’t been registered is a federal offense and can result in the trademark owner being charged with fraud.  This mark also means the owner has exclusive rights to the mark anywhere in the U.S.

Lastly, © is used to denote a copyrighted work. Copyrights grant the creator of a work the exclusive rights for its use or distribution for a limited time. Trademarks and copyrights differ as they protect different intellectual assets. Where trademarks protect logos and slogans (as previously mentioned), copyrights usually protect literary and artistic works. For example, if you wrote a novel, you would want to register copyrights regarding the content and trademark the title.


-Intern, Aditi Khandavilli