What Every Business Owner Should Know About Trademark Symbols

Last Updated: 

December 28, 2022

Online Business Startup

Trademarks are part of a business's intellectual property registrable under IP laws. Ac

As a result, they play a critical role in a business's reputation and, thus, the need to register them. Upon registration, a trademark owner gets exclusive rights to their trademarks and a legal right to stop others from using them. 

After successful registration, the trademark owner also receives a certificate of registration that acts as proof of registration and the right to use trademark symbols alongside their trademarks. 

What Are Trademark Symbols?

The simplest definition of a trademark symbol is a symbol that conveys information about the registration status of a trademark. There are three main trademark symbols: the TM, SM, and the ® symbol. 

All three symbols are applicable in different situations depending on the registration status of a trademark. Also, all the symbols serve a common purpose, letting other people know that the user has a claim over the trademark.

The TM Symbol

The TM symbol can be used by any entity that claims rights in a trademark, whether or not the trademark is registered with a government agency. You can find the TM sign on the packaging, labels, advertisements, and other marketing materials, and it is often placed next to the trademarked identifier, such as MyProductName TM. Alternatively, you can use the MyProduct ™ format. 

Using the TM symbol on a product or service does not mean you will have exclusive rights to your trademarks. You will need to register your trademarks with the relevant body to enjoy exclusive rights and the right to take legal action against infringers. 

Trademark Symbols
Image source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/registered-trademark-symbol-709695/

The ® Symbol

The ® symbol is used alongside a trademarked logo, brand name, slogan, etc., duly registered. In Canada, using the ® symbol in connection with a trademark that has not been registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is illegal. 

While the ® symbol cannot guarantee that another entity will not use your marks for marketing their products, many would shun the idea, knowing that doing so could result in an infringement case. 

There is no legal requirement to use the ® symbol on your trademarks after registration. But the lack of the symbol on your trademarks can be used by an infringing party as a  defense in an infringement lawsuit, affecting your ability to recover damages suffered.

The SM Mark

SM is the acronym for service mark. It is a trademark symbol that identifies and distinguishes services rather than products. A mark is eligible for protection as a service mark if it is used exclusively for marketing or advertising services. Also, it must be distinctive from others in the same industry. 

The SM marks work the same way as the TM or the ® symbol in that it is placed alongside a registered trademark item, for example, MyService SM. Like registered trademarks, holders of a service mark license have a right to stop others from using their marks and suing for infringement.

Where to Register For Trademarks

In Canada, trademark registration is done through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), a part of the federal government's Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada department. Upon successful registration, the trademark protections remain enforceable for ten years from the registration date. Still, the trademark owner has a right to renew their rights by paying a service fee every ten years. 

Trademark registration in Canada restricts the protections to Canadian territory. To enjoy similar rights in the USA, you must register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The same applies to every country where you wish to have a presence. 

For businesses wishing to have a global reach, registering through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a UN agency, can be the cheaper option since it offers protection in all countries that are signatory to the statute that created it. 

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