Trademark Symbols ™ vs. SM vs. ®

There are three trademark symbols that trademark owners should use, ™ vs. SM vs. ®, based on whether they are using a registered trademark/service mark, or unregistered trademarks and service marks.

Have you ever seen the ™, SM, or  ® symbols after a product or company name and wondered what they meant? They are trademark symbols used to indicate trademarks or service marks that are owned and warn competitors not to use the same or confusingly similar marks. Each marking serves a particular purpose and trademark/service mark owners need to know how to use trademark markings correctly.

Trademark Marking Placement

Trademark symbols are usually placed on the right side of a trademark or service mark. For example on the right side of a logo or added as superscript after a company or product name. However, there are no fast or hard rules about where to place a trademark symbol. Often times trademark owners decide where to place a trademark symbol based on aesthetic purposes.

The most recently submitted Snapple specimen shows the trademark registration symbol placed on the lower right of the Snapple logo.

Registered Trademarks

The trademark symbol that most people are familiar with is the trademark registration symbol, i.e. ®. The ® symbol can only be used in connection with trademarks or services marks that are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Use of the ® symbol is one of the benefits of trademark registration because it simultaneously a) lends credibility to a product or company because consumers are familiar with the symbol; and b) alerts competitors not to use the same or a confusingly similar trademark or service mark.

Common Law Trademarks

Common law trademark owners, i.e. marks used in connection with products and goods and not services, can use TM in superscript after their trademark. The ™ symbol indicates that the owner of the trademark views the mark as deserving of trademark protection and warns third parties not to use the same or a confusingly similar trademark. Although the ™ symbol is not as commonly symbol as the ® symbol, but it is still fairly common on products sold throughout the U.S.

Common Law Service Marks

A service mark is the trademark equivalent for a source identifier for services, such as legal services, rather than goods or products. Owners of service marks that are not registered with the USPTO can use SM, in superscript, to indicate their common property rights to the service mark. As is often the case with the TM symbol for common law trademarks, often owners being using the SM symbol while they have a service mark application with pending with the USPTO.

The Granite Trademark Services logo with the SM marking on it in the top right, a common place for trademark markings.

Do you have any questions about trademark marking? Leave a comment below or contact us and we will do our best to help you out.

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