Protecting Your Brand: The Essential Guide to Trademark Symbols

Choose the Right Symbol

There are three main ways to mark a trademark. This distinction is crucial for legal protection and clarifying your trademark’s status to the public and potential infringers.


If the trademark is not registered, you should use a TM. If you consider it a trademark mark it with a TM. This symbol is used for goods and services in general and can be applied to unregistered trademarks. It signifies that you are claiming the mark as your own, even though it is not officially registered with a trademark office.


This is an option for marking services. It indicates that the mark is for a service. It is not necessary to use an SM, TM is acceptable to mark both products and services. My advice is to just use the TM.

If it’s registered, use the ® symbol. You must be sure that it’s registered and that the goods or services on which you use the symbol are part of the registration. You’re not legally required to use the ® symbol, but you should. If you don’t use it, money damages are only available after the infringer had actual notice of the registration, such as in a cease and desist letter.

Intentionally using the ® without the mark being registered can be considered fraud and unfair competition.

Placement Matters

The symbol should be placed in a conspicuous spot where it’s easily noticed, but not obstructive. Typically, it’s positioned at the upper right corner or lower right corner of the trademark. Consistency in placement across all materials and products reinforces your trademark’s visibility and protection.

The first occurrence of your trademark in each piece of marketing or packaging should be marked with the appropriate symbol. You don’t have to mark every use.

Size and Visibility

While the symbol shouldn’t overshadow your trademark, it must be visible enough to be noticed. It should be smaller than the trademark itself but clear enough to be legible. This balance ensures recognition without detracting from the brand identity.

Consistent Use Across All Mediums

Apply your trademark symbols consistently across all platforms: product packaging, online content, marketing materials, or business communications. Consistency not only strengthens your legal position but also reinforces brand recognition.

Educate Your Team

Ensure that everyone involved in your branding, from your marketing team to your product designers, understands the importance of properly marking trademarks. A well-informed team is your first line of defense in maintaining your brand’s integrity.

Understanding Trademark Basics

In the world of business and branding, your trademark isn’t just a logo, slogan, or brand name. It’s the signature of your brand’s identity, distinguishing your products and services from those of competitors. But how do you ensure that this critical asset is properly protected and respected in the market? The answer lies in effectively marking your trademarks on your materials and products.

A trademark can be a word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property laws and ensure that consumers can identify the source of a product or service.

The Power of Marking

The symbols and ® play pivotal roles in trademark protection. Here’s what they mean:

  • ™ (Trademark): TM denotes that the service name or logo is being claimed as a trademark without having gone through the formal registration process.
  • ® (Registered Trademark): The ® symbol is reserved for trademarks that have been officially registered with the relevant government authority, such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It’s a clear signal that your trademark is not just claimed but is a legally recognized and protected.

The Legal Angle

Properly marking your trademarks is more than a best practice; it’s a legal strategy. In many jurisdictions, the use of ™ and ® can significantly impact the outcomes of trademark disputes. The ® symbol can enhance your ability to collect damages in infringement cases.


Your trademark is the heart of your brand’s identity, deserving vigilant protection and proper representation in the marketplace. By understanding and employing trademark symbols effectively, you not only comply with legal standards but also build and maintain the strength and integrity of your brand. Remember, in the world of branding, the small details can make a big difference.

To get answers to your questions click here. To schedule a time to talk, email, or give him a call at 248-433-7381.

About the Author:

Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.

To get answers to your questions click here to schedule a time to talk, email, or give him a call at 248-318-7015.

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