In this article, readers will learn about the purpose and various types of trademark symbols, such as ™, ®, and ℠, and their correct usage. The article also provides guidance on evaluating one's brand and the trademark registration process, along with the selection of the appropriate symbol for a specific business. Moreover, the article discusses proper trademark symbol placement on logos, marketing materials, packaging, and online usage. By understanding these key concepts, you will be able to properly protect your brand and establish a strong market presence.

How to Choose the Right Trademark Symbol for your Brand

Definition and Purpose of Trademarks

A trademark is a unique symbol, word, phrase, or design that identifies and distinguishes a company's goods or services from those of its competitors, helping to establish brand recognition and reputation. It serves as a crucial marketing tool and adds value to a business by providing an exclusive right to use the mark in connection to specific products and services.

The purpose of a trademark is to protect the consumer from confusion and to prevent unfair competition. By choosing a trademark symbol, it protects the exclusive rights of a company to use a particular mark, trademarks ensure that customers can differentiate between similar products and services in the marketplace and evade deception. This helps businesses maintain their reputation and brand loyalty while preventing potential legal disputes. Moreover, trademarks encourage innovation and creativity, as brands invest time and effort into developing unique identifiers that set them apart from competitors.

Trademarks are granted with legal rights and protections, allowing the owner to enforce their rights against unauthorized use of the mark. This includes pursuing legal action against entities that counterfeit or use a similar mark in a way that is likely to confuse consumers. Trademark registration is essential to assert these rights effectively and prevents others from profiting off your brand without your consent.

Types of Trademark Symbols

There are three primary symbols associated with trademarks: ™, ®, and ℠. Each serves a specific purpose and communicates a different level of trademark protection.

™ (unregistered)

The ™ symbol stands for "trademark" and represents an unregistered trademark. This is used when a business or individual asserts a common law right to a trademark, but the mark has not been officially registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or any other national trademark office. The ™ symbol can be used for both goods and services to claim ownership of the mark, and it indicates that the owner considers the mark to be their exclusive property.

While an unregistered trademark may still offer some level of legal protection, these rights are limited compared to a registered trademark. Owners of an unregistered mark are largely restricted to enforcing their rights within the geographical region where they have established their brand and business presence.

® (registered)

The ® symbol designates a registered trademark, meaning that the mark has been officially registered and approved by the USPTO or another national trademark office. Upon successful registration, the owner gains exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with the goods and services registered. By displaying the ® symbol, the owner signifies that the mark has undergone a detailed examination and has been granted legal protection.

The benefits of a registered trademark include nationwide protection, discouragement of others from using a confusingly similar mark, and the ability to sue for infringement in federal courts. Additionally, after continuous use for five years following registration, the mark may become "incontestable," providing stronger protection against challenges to the trademark's validity.

℠ (service mark)

The ℠ symbol represents a service mark, which is a specific type of trademark used to identify and distinguish services rather than tangible goods. Just like the ™ symbol, the ℠ symbol can be utilized for unregistered service marks to assert common law rights. Once the service mark is registered, the ® symbol should be used instead to indicate the registered status of the mark.

In summary, understanding the different trademark symbols and their purposes is essential for anyone wishing to protect their brand effectively. Using the correct symbol not only communicates the level of protection your brand has but also helps to deter potential infringers and uphold the integrity of your mark.

Evaluating Your Brand

Identifying the Nature of Your Brand

The first step in evaluating your brand is to identify the nature of your brand. Determine whether your brand revolves around products, services, or both.


If your brand is primarily product-based, consider the types of products you offer. Are they innovative and unique or are they similar to what is already available in the market? Evaluate their quality, design, and functionality. Also, think about your product packaging and how it represents your brand. Packaging can greatly impact the perception of your brand and influence purchasing decisions.


If your brand is more service-oriented, evaluate the types of services you provide. Are they in high demand? Do you offer a unique approach, competitive pricing, or exceptional customer service that sets you apart from competitors? Assess the overall value proposition of your service offerings, and determine whether they align with the market needs and expectations.


If your brand involves both products and services, it is essential to evaluate both aspects. You must examine the quality, uniqueness, and market demand of your products, as well as the value proposition of your services. Look for ways to improve and streamline your offerings to differentiate your brand in the competitive landscape.

Brand Recognition and Market Presence

Brand recognition is essential for the success of any brand. Assess your brand's current market presence, awareness, and reputation. You can do this by conducting market research, monitoring social media engagement, and analyzing customer reviews. Consider the following questions:

  • How do customers and potential clients perceive your brand?
  • What are the most common words or phrases they associate with your brand?
  • Are your current marketing efforts effective in promoting your brand and driving customer loyalty?

It is also important to examine your brand's positioning. Is your brand associated with low-cost, high-quality, or innovative products/services? Does your brand represent a certain lifestyle or target a specific customer segment? Understanding your brand's positioning can help you make informed decisions about your marketing and communication strategies.

Future Plans for Your Brand

Having a clear vision for the future is crucial for your brand's success. Consider the following aspects when planning your brand's future:

Expanding Products or Services

If you plan to expand your product or service offerings, think about how these new offerings will align with your brand. Consider whether they will support or enhance your existing brand reputation and positioning. Develop a plan for promoting and launching these new offerings to your target audience.

International Market Penetration

If your brand aspirations include entering international markets, evaluate the potential demand for your products or services in these new regions. Conduct market research to identify potential competitors, cultural differences, and other factors that may affect your brand's success. Develop a modified marketing strategy that will appeal to local preferences and effectively communicate your brand values.

In summary, evaluating your brand involves identifying the core nature of your brand, assessing brand recognition and market presence, and considering future plans for expansion or market penetration. By understanding your brand's current position and potential future growth, you can make strategic decisions that will help you succeed in your industry and create a lasting impact on your target audience.

Trademark Registration Process

A trademark is a symbol, phrase, design, or a combination of these elements that represents and distinguishes a brand or its products and services from other competitors. Trademark registration is essential to protect brand identity and prevent other parties from using similar marks that could create confusion or lead to the loss of exclusive rights to use a particular mark.

The registration process for a trademark consists of several stages, including conducting a trademark search, filing the application, examination of the trademark by the authorities, addressing oppositions during the publication period, and maintaining and renewing the registered trademarks.

Conducting a Trademark Search

Before applying for a trademark registration, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive search of existing trademarks. This step helps to identify potential conflicts with other registered trademarks and avoid unnecessary costs or delays in the registration process. Trademark searches can be conducted on national and international databases.

National Database Searches

National trademark databases are maintained by government agencies responsible for trademark registration in a specific country. Usually, these databases are available online and can be accessed free of charge. In the US, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) operates the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) where applicants can search for existing trademarks. Similarly, in the European Union, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) provides a search tool for users to check registered trademarks within the European Union.

To perform a thorough trademark search, consider the following elements:

  • Variations of words or phrases: Search for synonyms, different spellings, or plural forms of the same word.
  • Similar designs or logos: Examine trademarks with similar designs, color schemes, and shapes that could be perceived as confusingly similar to your trademark.
  • Phonetic equivalents: Search for trademarks that sound the same as your desired trademark, even if they are written differently.

International Database Searches

For businesses expanding internationally, it is essential to check for similar trademarks in foreign jurisdictions. The WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) administers the Madrid System, which allows trademark owners to apply for protection in multiple countries through a single application. The WIPO Global Brand Database allows users to perform searches on over 40 million trademarks from multiple countries.

Other international databases include TMview, which provides access to trademark data from participating national intellectual property offices, and the European Union Trade Mark (EUTM) database, which comprises EU member countries.

Trademark Application and Examination

The trademark application process may vary depending on the country or jurisdiction where the trademark is being registered. Generally, it involves filling out the relevant application form, detailing the trademark specifications (word mark or logo), products or services associated with the trademark, and submitting the appropriate fees.

After filing the application, the respective trademark office reviews the application and assesses the eligibility of the trademark for registration. This examination process includes determining whether the trademark is distinctive, descriptive, and meets the legal requirements for registration. If deemed necessary, the trademark office may issue an office action, which is an official letter detailing any objections or concerns that need to be addressed before the trademark can proceed to registration.

Addressing Oppositions

If the trademark examination results in a positive outcome, the trademark will be published in a public journal or online registry, allowing third parties to review and oppose the registration if they believe their rights are infringed. In the case of an opposition, applicants have a specified period to respond to the opposition, and the trademark office will assess the arguments from both parties to decide whether the trademark can be registered.

Upon successful registration, the trademark owner is granted exclusive rights to use the mark and enforce their rights against any unauthorized use or infringement.

Maintaining and Renewing Registered Trademarks

Trademark registration is not a one-time event and requires ongoing maintenance to ensure it remains valid. Registered trademark holders must actively use the mark in commerce and monitor any potential infringements.

In many countries, registered trademarks have a validity period of approximately 10 years, with the option to renew the registration indefinitely if the trademark is being used actively. Trademark owners should be aware of renewal deadlines, as failure to renew a trademark can lead to its expiration and loss of exclusive rights.

Overall, the trademark registration process requires careful planning, conducting comprehensive trademark searches, addressing potential objections or oppositions, and maintaining the registered trademark. By doing so, businesses can protect their brand identity, build consumer trust, and prevent unauthorized use of their unique marks.

Selecting the Appropriate Symbol

When to Use the ™ Symbol

The ™ symbol is used to signify an unregistered trademark, which represents a name, logo, or tagline that identifies a product or service. Using the ™ symbol is advisable if you have a brand name or logo that you want to protect from misuse by competitors, but you have not yet registered it as a trademark. The ™ symbol serves as notice to others that you claim ownership over the trademark, and they should be cautious in using the mark to avoid any potential infringement.

During the process of registering your trademark with the appropriate government agency, you can also use the ™ symbol. This provides a level of protection while you wait for the registration to be approved. Using the ™ symbol before registration can also establish priority in the event any disputes arise concerning the use of that particular name or logo.

When to Use the ® Symbol

The ® symbol can only be used once your trademark has been officially registered with the relevant government body. The registration of a trademark provides you with exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with the goods and services listed in your application. Using the ® symbol is a clear indication that your trademark is protected, and any unauthorized use of the mark may lead to legal action.

After successful registration, you should use this symbol consistently, especially in jurisdictions where your trademark is registered. This helps maintain the strength of your trademark rights and demonstrates that you are taking active steps to protect your brand. However, be cautious of using the ® symbol in jurisdictions where your trademark has not been registered, as it could lead to potential legal issues.

When to Use the ℠ Symbol

The ℠ symbol represents a service mark and is used to identify the services provided by a company or individual. Many businesses use this symbol as a means of differentiating their services from similar providers in the same industry. This symbol is typically applied to companies or individuals who provide non-tangible services like consultation, marketing, or entertainment.

Although not as commonly used as the ™ and ® symbols, the ℠ symbol can be used as a supplementary symbol for businesses that offer services along with their products. In such cases, the registered trademark symbol (®) would typically be applied to the logo or brand name, while the service mark symbol (℠) would be placed next to the name of the services being provided.

Trademark Symbol Placement

Choosing the right location on your logo

The correct placement of your trademark symbol is crucial in creating a professional and appealing logo. The symbol should not distract from the design, but it should be noticeable enough to communicate your ownership and protection of the mark. In most cases, the trademark symbol is placed in the upper right corner or baseline of your logo or brand name. The size of the symbol should also be relatively smaller but still legible.

Using the symbol in marketing materials and packaging

Incorporate the relevant trademark symbol consistently in your marketing materials and product packaging. This helps establish your ownership and prevents any potential misuse or copying of your brand. Placement on marketing materials may vary depending on the design, but it should be clearly displayed alongside the product name or logo. On product packaging, the symbol should be prominently featured along with relevant product information.

Digital use of the symbol

Using the trademark symbol in digital formats like your website and social media platforms is equally important, as it also sends a clear message to competitors and potential infringers that you have claimed ownership of your brand and its mark. In digital spaces, the symbol should be placed next to the mark in a visible manner, whether it be in website headers, footers, or social media profile images. By maintaining consistency across all platforms, both physical and digital, you effectively showcase your brand as protected, credible, and professional.

1. What are the different types of trademark symbols and their meaning?

The three main trademark symbols are ™, ®, and ℠. ™ represents an unregistered trademark used for goods, ® indicates a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and ℠ signifies an unregistered service mark used for services.

2. When is it appropriate to use the ™ symbol?

Use the ™ symbol when seeking to protect a brand, logo, or product name that has not yet been registered with the USPTO. This symbol informs the public that you consider your mark a trademark and intend to protect your brand's intellectual property.

3. How do I know when I should use the ® symbol instead of the ™ symbol?

A brand owner can only use the ® symbol after the USPTO approves the trademark registration. It is illegal to use the ® symbol for unregistered trademarks and may result in fines or denial of future trademark applications.

4. What is the purpose of the ℠ symbol and when should it be used?

The ℠ symbol is utilized for unregistered service marks and is appropriate when seeking to protect the branding of a service, rather than a physical product. Similar to ™, it demonstrates that you claim ownership of the service mark and intend to protect your brand's intellectual property.

5. How can I determine which trademark symbol is most suitable for my brand?

Evaluate the goods or services your brand offers and whether your mark has been registered with the USPTO. If registered, use the ® symbol. If unregistered and your brand provides a physical product, use the ™ symbol; for services, use the ℠ symbol.

6. Are trademark symbols legally required for brand protection?

Trademark symbols are not legally required but are highly recommended for brand protection, as they alert the public to your intellectual property rights. Both registered and unregistered trademarks can be protected, but using symbols helps ensure stronger enforcement.