A Primer On Trademarks

February 12, 2012  |  By

This blog was originally published in February of 2012 but was revised in May of 2024 and is still accurate. 

So, what’s the difference between ™ and ®, you ask?

While both represent claims to trademark rights, there are distinctions for when each should be used.

The ™ Symbol

Usually shown in superscript or subscript next to a mark, a ™ symbol provides notice to potential infringers that the user asserts rights to a term, slogan, logo, or other mark in connection with specific goods or services. A ™ symbol does not mean that a mark is registered or that it is necessarily enforceable; it simply means that the owner claims such rights. A ™ symbol can be used whether or not a mark is registered.

The ® Symbol

Also typically shown in superscript or subscript next to a mark, the ® symbol is mostly only used after a mark has been registered with government intellectual property offices. In the United States, the ®:

  • May only be used after the mark is registered
  • May only be used on or in connection with the claimed goods and services listed in the registration
  • May only be used during the life of the registration

Why Should You File With the USPTO?

The next question is – if my mark is protected by using ™ why should I file an application with the USPTO? Well, if your brand will be used across the nation, then you will want to file an application with the USPTO to protect your mark throughout the country. Unregistered trademark rights are limited to the geographic area where the mark is used. In an e-commerce world, brands are rarely limited in geographic scope. Accordingly, if you have a product or service that will be offered throughout the country, then you should probably file an application to register your mark with the USPTO.

The text above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author(s)

Jeff Villalobos

Jeff is a senior attorney at Vela Wood. He focuses his practice in the areas of intellectual property, technology commercialization, privacy, advertising, and corporate transactional matters.

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