Besides the goods or services sold, your brand is one of the most valuable assets of your business. There are a variety of ways to help protect your brand, but one of the most common is to develop a trademark for your brand.
Have you ever looked at two brand names side by side and noticed that one has a ™ symbol and the other has a ® and wondered what the difference is between ™ and ®?
Both symbols indicate the existence of a trademark and both symbols put the public on notice that you consider something to be a trademark that has value to your business. However, the strength of the mark and the degree of ease in enforcing your trademark is vastly different.
Before we talk about using symbols to protect your trademark, it is important to understand that trademarks fall into one of three groups. The strongest ones are those registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The next strongest are trademarks filed with the state in which you do business. And last, are trademarks that you use but haven't formally filed to protect.
Now, it's time to find out How to Use ™ and ® to Protect Your Brand:
Using the ® Symbol
The strongest trademark is one that is filed and registered with the USPTO. It is the only trademark that enables you to use the ® symbol or the circle R. This registration allows you to use the trademark nationwide, gives you a presumption of ownership of the mark, and enables you to enforce your rights and collect damages when others try and use your registered mark. A startup or small business that registers its trademarks may have an easier time defending its trademarks against anyone who tries to use them without permission. However to receive registration, you must use your trademark in interstate commerce, which is a legal way of saying in more than one state. Additionally, this process is time consuming, and it can take a year before you receive the official certificate. But don't let that stop you from moving forward. We'll talk more below about how you can protect your trademark during the process.
Using the ™ Symbol
On the other hand, the ™ symbol signals to the market that you consider something a trademark, but do not have a registered trademark with the USPTO. You want to use this symbol with any trademarks you've registered with the state you do business in. But the ™ symbol isn't just for trademarks that are registered.
It is also for anything you consider to be a trademark, but haven't registered.
Now you may be wondering why you would want to denote a ™ symbol on your trademark if it that symbol denotes that your trademark is not registered. That is because the ™ symbol does help to deter others from using your trademark as many scammers fail to realize the difference between the ™ symbol and the circle R. Additionally, even though your trademark might not have the circle R, you are still able to enforce your ownership rights under state law if you've registered it or under common law. To enforce any common law rights associated with your ™ trademark, you will need to be able to show that you used the mark first and the company or person now using the same mark is causing confusion in the marketplace to get them to stop using it. By putting the ™ symbol in the upper right hand corner of your trademark, you are on your way to protecting your brand and the trademark you have worked hard to develop.
If you do decide to move forward with applying for registration with the USPTO, your mark will still be deterring third partying infringement because it is in the USPTO's database of registered trademarks and prior pending applications. However, while you wait for your registration to be approved, make sure to use the TM symbol to put people on notice. Additionally, do not use the circle R while your registration is in process.
If you use the circle R symbol before you have a registered trademark, this can result in fines and delays or denial of your future trademark application with the USPTO.
If you have any questions about the trademark process, please reach out for a free consultation. Also, we have a flat-rate packages registering trademarks with the state and the USPTO. Our USPTO trademark filing flat-rate package rates are going up from $900 plus filing fee to $1250 plus filing fees in October. If you have been thinking about filing, act now to get in at the reduced rate.