The registered trademark symbol “®” is used as a way of putting others on notice that you have a registered trademark. It is a criminal offence to use this symbol next to a word or logo unless it is registered as a trademark, and doing so can lead to fines. Alternatively, if you are using a word or logo as a trademark, but have yet to register it, you can use the letters TM alongside it. So, what are the benefits of doing so?
By marking your trademark with the ® trademark symbol you are making it clear to others that you have taken steps to register a trademark, and that you own it. Although registration is generally enough to secure protection, in some countries such as the US, using this trademark symbol can make it easier to claim compensation if someone infringes upon your rights. It also acts as a deterrent, because a competitor will be less likely to spot your trademark and decide to use it themselves if they are aware that it is a registered trademark. These are the same reasons you might use © to indicate that you own copyright in a particular piece of work.
Setting your trademark apart
Your trademark might often be used on a flyer amongst other graphics, on your letterhead, on your website or in documents in a way which makes it difficult to tell where your trademark ends and the rest of the material begins. Using TM or ® is a useful way of making it clear which words or graphics are actually part of your trademark. This can be particularly useful if your trademark appears alongside a trademark owned by someone else.
Associating your trademark with your business
Trademarks are for the benefit of consumers, helping them to tell your products and services apart from those of your competitors, and to find what they enjoyed in the past. So, a descriptive name is a poor choice for branding, in fact descriptive names cannot generally be registered as trademarks. If you think of the businesses you know and use, they have names like Google, Amazon, and Twitter. They don’t have names like search engine, books, micro blogging that describe their services. Nor should you.
Sometimes, particularly when a product becomes widely used, a trademark can become part of normal language, and attach to the type of product rather than the business which supplies it. For example, LINO (Linoleum), ASPIRIN, YO-YO and even ESCALATOR were originally the names of products supplied by particular businesses, but they became so widely used that they no longer served to identify the origin of those products, and so trademark rights were lost in some countries. Although there are no guarantees, and care needs to be taken in the way you use a trademark, by including the ® trademark symbol you can help avoid your trademarks becoming “generic”.
Can I use the ® symbol worldwide?
Trademark law differs from country to country, and although it is permissible to use the ® symbol in the UK provided that your trademark is registered anywhere in the world, other territories may be more strict. In some cases it may be feasible to use the symbol along with a notice explaining in which countries your trademark is registered, but if you will be using your trademark internationally, particularly outside of Europe, then we recommend taking legal advice to avoid problems, as it is important that the public are not confused into believing your trademark is registered in their country when it is not.
Wherever you are uncomfortable using the ® symbol in connection with a brand name or logo, then you should consider using TM to ensure that others are aware that you using it as a trademark even if you have yet to register it, or to file an application.