Fact Sheet: Introduction to Trademarks

Trademark Symbols

Published: May 19, 2020

1. What does TM mean?

TM means trademark. The TM symbol usually is used in connection with an unregistered mark, to inform potential infringers that a term, slogan, logo, or other indicator is being claimed as a trademark. Use of the TM symbol does not guarantee that the owner’s mark will be protected under trademark laws. The owner may continue to use TM should registration of the mark be refused.

2. What does SM mean?

SM means service mark. It functions similarly to the symbol TM, in that it is used to provide notice of a claim of common law rights in a mark; however, it is usually used in connection with a service mark, covering services, such as banking or legal services, rather than tangible goods. Use of the SM symbol does not guarantee that the owner’s mark will be protected under trademark laws.

3. What does ® mean?

The symbol ® is a notice of registered trademark ownership in many countries and regions. It is used to advise the public that a trademark or service mark is registered and to provide constructive notice of the legal ownership status of the mark with which it is used. The ® symbol should be used only in connection with registered trademarks or service marks. In the United States, use of ® may be instituted only after registration of the mark is granted. Use of ® with an unregistered mark may result in claims of fraud where the owner demonstrates intent, knowing and willful misuse, and attempts to deceive or mislead consumers, or in other difficulties for the owner in trying to obtain and/or enforce its trademark rights.

4. How should the TM, SM, or ® symbol be used?

There is some flexibility as to how and where to use the TM, SM, or ® symbol. Typically, it is placed in the upper right-hand corner, in the lower right-hand corner, or level with the mark or logo itself—each is an acceptable way of displaying the appropriate symbol. While there is no specific requirement regarding the font or size of these symbols, most often they are placed adjacent to the mark, in superscript (raised) font. Example: COCA-COLA®. The TM, SM, or ® symbol need only appear with the first or most prominent mention of a mark in documents, such as press releases, articles, and company reports.


Please give us your feedback on whether this fact sheet was helpful or if you have suggestions for other fact sheet topics.