Fact Sheet: Introduction to Trademarks

Trademark Symbols

Updated: April 1, 2021

1. What does TM mean?

TM stands for trademark. The TM symbol (often seen in superscript like this: TM) is usually used in connection with an unregistered mark—a term, slogan, logo, or other indicator—to provide notice to potential infringers that common law rights in the mark are claimed. Use of the TM symbol does not guarantee that the owner’s mark will be protected under trademark laws. The owner may use the TM symbol regardless of whether an application for registration has been filed or whether the trademark is registered. The owner can continue to use the TM symbol even if an application for registration of the mark is refused.

2. What does SM mean?

SM stands for service mark (often seen in superscript like this: SM). It functions similarly to the TM symbol, in that it is used to provide notice of a claim of common law rights in a mark, but it is used in connection with a service. A service mark covers 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. As with the TM symbol, the registration status of the service mark does not impact an owner’s ability to use the SM symbol.

3. What does ® mean?

The symbol ® is a notice of registered trademark ownership. It is used to advise the public that a trademark or service mark is registered, providing 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 most jurisdictions, the ® may be used only after registration of the mark is granted. In most jurisdictions, use of ® with an unregistered mark is a civil or criminal offense.

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 relevant 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, for example, COCA-COLA®. Generally, 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.

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