You’ve probably seen these trademark symbols everywhere: TM, SM, and ®. But what do they mean, and when should you use them to protect your mark?
Luckily, in the United States, you are not required to register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In fact, you can establish “common law” rights in a mark based solely on use of the mark in commerce.
However, it is always best to use a designation with your mark.
- TM– You should use this designation in conjunction with your mark if your mark is used in conjunction with goods but not registered with the USPTO.
- SM– You should use this designation in conjunction with your mark if your mark is used in conjunction with services but not registered with the USPTO.
- ® – You should use this designation if your mark is registered with the USPTO.
If you choose not to register your mark or are waiting for approval from the USPTO, it is always a good idea to use the TMand SM designations. These designations show the public that a descriptive term may actually be the source of a product (SALTYTM chips or COMFYTM clothes). They can also be used to show which words or symbols on a label you actually consider to be a trademark.
However, the safest option is registering your mark with the USPTO which offers substantial benefits, such as a legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration (a state registration only provides rights within the borders of that one state, and common law rights exist only for the specific area where the mark is used).
If you are thinking about registering your mark, we are always happy to help with any questions or concerns. Feel free to call The Kendrick Law Group at 407-641-5847 to set up a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Co-written by: Kyle Wilhelm, Law Clerk