What does the R-symbol and the TM symbol mean?
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog article entitled Trademarks: Delay can cost you, which went into some detail on the intricacies of trademark law. As a trademark attorney and small-business lawyer, I took it for granted that most people know the difference between the (R) symbol and the TM symbol, but later found out that much confusion exists about these symbols and what they mean. In this article, I explain what these two symbols are, and what they mean for you and your trademark.
What is the (R) symbol?
Simply put, the (R) symbol next to a trademark means that the trademark is officially registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office (or USPTO for short). For a simple, arbitrary, non-existing word mark, it can be easy and inexpensive to register your trademark by yourself. Registering your trademark gives you superior rights over anyone else in the United States to use your trademark in the industry classes specified, and it allows you to potentially obtain treble damages against infringes.
The R-symbol means a trademark is registered.
If your trademark is complicated (i.e. a sound mark, diagram, etc), more descriptive than arbitrary (see my old blog article for an explanation of this), is being used by others before you, or not just based on a simple word, registering your trademark can become more complicated and much more expensive. This becomes the territory and domain for good trademark attorneys; and trust me, it’s well worth the investment of a good lawyer to help you through the process of registering your trademark under such circumstances.
What is the TM symbol?
For all other trademarks that are not registered, they must not be associated with the R-symbol. Doing so can evoke penalties from the USPTO if you eventually try to register your trademark, or if you try to defend against potential infringers. Instead, use the TM symbol in place of the R-symbol, until your trademark is registered. It provides notice to would-be infringers that you view your mark as a trademark, and that you will defend it against would-be infringers.
Law 4 Small Business. A little law now can save a lot later.