Q: When can you use the trademark symbols TM, SM, and ®?

When can I use the trademark symbols TM, SM, and ® ?

SourceProtecting Your Trademark Basic Facts About Trademarks, prepared by the United States Patent & Trademark Office

Each time you use your mark, it is best to use a designation with it. If registered, use an ® after the mark. If not yet registered, use TM for goods or SM for services, to indicate that you have adopted this as a trademark or service mark, respectively, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO. You may only use the registration symbol with the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the federal trademark registration. However, no specific requirements exist as to the precise use of the “® ” symbol as to placement, e.g., whether used in a subscript or superscript manner. Note: Several foreign countries use “® ” to indicate that a mark is registered in that country. Use of the symbol by the holder of a foreign registration may be proper.

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What’s the difference between copyright, trademark, and patent?

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Copyright: A copyright protects an author’s original literary or artistic work, whether published (meaning distributed to the public) or unpublished (not distributed at all or only to a few people). Under copyright law, the term “author” has a special meaning: the creator of an original literary or artistic work.

Trademark: A trademark protects a word, phrase, symbol, or device – the mark – used in commerce to identify and distinguish one product from another. Each state has its own state laws to protect intrastate commerce. And the Lanham Act provides protection throughout the country. Unregistered marks are protected under state and federal case law.

Service Mark: A service mark protects a word, phrase, symbol, or device – again, the mark – used in business to identify and distinguish one service from another. So for example, every time you see the golden arches you know it identifies products and services from McDonalds.

The purpose of trademark law is to avoid consumer confusion so a similar “M” used for a fast food chain would probably constitute infringement. Think “McDowells” in Coming to America.

Patent: A patent protects an invention by granting the inventor the exclusive right to exclude others from producing or using the inventor’s discovery or invention for a specific period of time.

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