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What Are The Differences Between the ™ and the ® symbol?

The ™ symbol, also known as the "trademark symbol," is used to indicate that a word, phrase, symbol, or design is being used as a trademark for goods or services. It does not necessarily mean that the mark is registered with a trademark office, but it serves as a notice to others that the owner claims rights to the mark in connection with specific goods or services.

On the other hand, the ® symbol, known as the "registered trademark symbol," is used to indicate that a trademark has been officially registered with the appropriate governmental authority, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the US. It signifies that the mark is legally registered and enjoys additional legal protections and benefits compared to an unregistered trademark.

Here are examples of both ™ (trademark symbol) and ® (registered trademark symbol) usage, along with explanations of common law use and principal vs. supplemental trademark databases:

™ (Trademark Symbol) Use Cases:

  1. First Use (Unregistered Trademark):

    • Example: A small coffee shop named "Brew Haven" starts using the name and logo on its coffee cups and signage without registering it.

    • Explanation: The ™ symbol can be used to indicate the coffee shop's claim to the name and logo as a trademark, even though it's not officially registered. This establishes common law rights in the geographic areas where the mark is used.

  2. Common Law Use:

    • Example: A clothing brand named "Urban Threads" consistently uses the name and logo on its clothing items in various states but hasn't registered it.

    • Explanation: Without formal registration, the ™ symbol serves as notice of the brand's claim to the mark. Common law rights are established based on the actual use of the mark in commerce, providing protection in the regions where the brand operates.

Difference between Principal and Supplemental Trademark Databases:

  • The Principal Register is for trademarks that are inherently distinctive or have acquired distinctiveness through use and are eligible for all legal benefits and presumptions. It includes marks like brand names, logos, and slogans.

  • The Supplemental Register is for descriptive trademarks that have not yet acquired distinctiveness but may become eligible for the Principal Register over time with continuous use and secondary meaning.

® (Registered Trademark Symbol) Use Cases:

  1. Registered Trademark:

    • Example: Nike registers its "Just Do It" slogan and Nike swoosh logo with the USPTO.

    • Explanation: Nike can now use the ® symbol to indicate that both the slogan and logo are officially registered trademarks. This provides stronger legal protection and benefits, including nationwide priority and the ability to recover statutory damages in infringement cases.

  2. Principal vs. Supplemental Trademark Database:

    • Example: Coca-Cola registers its classic logo and brand name on the Principal Register, while a new energy drink company registers its descriptive slogan on the Supplemental Register.

    • Explanation: The Principal Register offers greater legal benefits and protections, while the Supplemental Register provides a path for marks that may lack inherent distinctiveness but have acquired secondary meaning through use. Marks on the Supplemental Register can still be enforced against infringers and may eventually qualify for the Principal Register.

In summary, the ™ symbol is used for unregistered trademarks, establishing common law rights, while the ® symbol indicates that a trademark is officially registered, offering stronger legal protections. The Principal Register is for inherently distinctive marks, while the Supplemental Register accommodates descriptive marks that may gain distinctiveness over time.

  • Published: Feb 15, 2024
  • Updated: Mar 4, 2024

This FAQ serves as a general information resource and does not provide legal advice. We cannot guarantee the completeness, accuracy, reliability, or suitability of the information for your specific circumstances. As legal situations can vary greatly, it is always recommended to consult with a qualified attorney for personalized advice and guidance.

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