Fact Sheet: Introduction to Trademarks

Trademark Use

Updated: April 30, 2015

1. How do I use a trademark properly?

ALWAYS distinguish a trademark from surrounding text by using it in all capital letters (or, at least, with initial capitals); by using it in a bold, italic or underlined font; by placing it within double quotation marks (“ ”); or by using it in a stylized or graphic form that differs from the surrounding text. If the trademark is registered, use the superscript ® symbol or other appropriate registration notice.


  • ROLLS-ROYCE automobiles
  • Scotch brand transparent tape
  • KleenexTM tissues
  • “adidas” footwear
  • Canon® cameras

ALWAYS use the trademark consistently, including with or without spacing and/or hyphens.


  • MONTBLANC fountain pen, not MONT BLANC
  • NESCAFÉ coffee, not NES CAFÉ

NEVER use a trademark as a noun. Always use a trademark as an adjective modifying a noun.


  • LEGO toy blocks
  • AMSTEL beer

NEVER use a trademark as a verb.


  • You are NOT xeroxing; rather, you are photocopying on a XEROX copier.
  • You are NOT rollerblading; rather, you are skating with ROLLERBLADE in-line skates.

NEVER modify a trademark by changing it to the plural form.


  • “tic tac” candies, not “tic tacs”
  • OREO cookies, not OREOS

NEVER use a trademark in the possessive form unless the trademark itself is possessive.


  • JACK DANIEL’S whiskey, not JACK DANIELS whiskey
  • LEVI’S jeans, not LEVI jeans

See also
Marking Requirements Fact Sheet
Trademarks vs. Generic Terms Fact Sheet
Proper Trademark Use Presentation
A Guide to Proper Trademark Use for Media, Internet and Publishing Professionals

2. When can I use another person’s or company’s trademark or service mark without the owner’s consent?

Usually it is permissible to use another person’s or company’s trademark or service mark when referring to a product or service of that person or company, provided it is clear that the mark is being used truthfully to refer to that specific product or service. It may not be used in a way that might mislead others as to that person’s or company’s affiliation with, sponsorship of or endorsement of your company or its products or services—for example, using a logo instead of simply the word form of the mark, or using the mark more prominently or frequently than necessary.

3. Are there restrictions on the use or registration of flags or national symbols of countries?

Yes. The laws of many countries prohibit the registration of marks comprising their flags or national symbols, as well as those of other nations. Many countries also have restrictions on the use of marks associated with their political leaders and on marks of certain organizations or semiprivate governmental agencies, such as the Olympics, the Red Cross and the United States Postal Service.

4. How do I use trademarks online properly?

Use of a trademark in text online generally is no different from use of a trademark in print. Certain uses of another’s trademark, however, such as in domain names, in metatags, as wallpaper on a website or as a keyword purchased from a search engine, might subject you to legal liability.

5. If I own an Internet address, can I safely use that phrase or name in my business, and do I have trademark rights in it?

While the law differs from country to country, in general, securing a domain name, in itself, does not guarantee that you can safely use the name in your business, or that you have acquired protectable trademark rights in your domain name or a phrase within it.

See also
Domain Names Fact Sheet
Differences Between Trademarks and Domain Names Fact Sheet

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