You must have definitely noticed that most company logos are accompanied by either the symbols TM (™) or circle-R (®). Despite both symbols claiming ownership on a specific trademark, these trade symbols do have a difference in what they actually mean.
Let’s have a look on their main differences.
The Trademark™ is used to signify common-law rights in a trademark pursuant to the Lanham Act. Therefore, companies that have not yet registered their brand name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) should use this symbol instead of the circle-R. This is also valid for companies that have applied their brand to the USPTO but their application is pending. It’s important here to note that using ™ does not guarantee that the owner’s mark is protected under trademark law. To succeed in a infringement action the owner must prove that s/he was the first to use the specific mark. (the article continues after the ad)
As the name implies, the circle-R symbol is used after a trademark has been registered with the USPTO. By registering your trademark, you have superior rights over others in the U.S. and you can obtain damages against infringers. In general, this is much more preferable over an unregistered trademark as it provides its owner heavy presumption in the courts.
Now that we’ve clarified their differences, i’m pretty sure you all have the same question: why do huge brands such as Coca-Cola, Starbucks or IBM use ™ instead of ®? Does it mean that there trademarks are not registered?
Well no, of course their brands are registered with the USPTO. Just because a company is registered though, it does not necessarily mean that they have to use to circle-R symbol: companies can choose to use the ™, the ® symbol or nothing at all (Apple for example doesn’t use any trademark symbol as this makes their brand look more friendly to the everyday consumer). Sometimes because of tradition, design or aesthetic reasons, companies choose to use the ™ instead of the ® and this why is, you’ll often see logos of registered companies carrying the ™, even though they could have used the ® symbol.
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Photo: McDonald’s, Lay’s
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: What Is the Difference Between TM (Trademark), R (Registered), and C (Copyright)? | What is the difference between TM, SM, ® and other symbols? | Trademark symbols, what’s the point?