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TM and ®; What’s the difference?

We are often questioned as to which of these can be used and whether they should sit alongside one’s logo. It is easy to get it right. However, it is very important not to get it wrong as the misuse of one of these can be considered an offence. Here’s our brief explanation to help answer this lingering question:

TM : Trademark

TM is a mark used to promote or brand goods. It notifies the world that you created it and can be used on any device, logobrand, label, name, word, signature, letter, packaging, colour(s), smell, sound, movement or any combination of these without any legal registration required.

TM serves as a ‘badge of origin’ and holds some value but may not necessarily protect it from those who might ‘acquire’ it whilst claiming that you are not the origin – unless you can prove that the infringer was previously aware of your trademark rights beforehand, or that you have been affected by their use of your mark. There is no cost to apply this to you logo, for example.

® : Registered trademark

® serves the same purpose as TM except it holds a much firmer status; it brands your mark untouchable. It also allows you to sell your trademark should anyone be interested in using it for themselves.

If you wanted to legally protect your trademark and prevent any competitors from stealing your creation then you can register it with the government. Once approved, you can apply the ® to your mark, informing the world that it belongs to you. This requires renewal every 10 years. For more information on how to register your mark click here

Unauthorised use of the ® symbol is an offence and can result in penalties unless you can prove it was a ‘good-faith mistake’. Your trademark must also be seen to be in continuous use in order to maintain the registration.

The proper manner to apply either symbol is to display it immediately after your mark in superscript style, although there is no set rule.

So… should I at least use the TM if it’s free?

Not necessarily. It offers no real protection and nothing more than common law can provide; by just using your trademark in the course of business gives you the rights to it. The only reason you would use the TM is to advertise the fact that you are claiming those rights.

As a designer, I prefer to leave it off due to impracticality when used at small sizes as it tends to becomes lost and untidy – it can look like a mistake and clutters the design. However, I can see how it may hold some psychological effects to the lesser informed consumers as it might give the impression of a more legitimate and well established brand?

Of course, if you have been granted approval to use the registered trademark then I would be urged to use the ®, purely because you have paid good money to advertise that stamp of originality and to confirm that the creation is yours, although you are not obliged to use it if you prefer not to – it may not sit well with your logo but once your trademark is registered it will still remain protected nevertheless.

Looking for more help or advice? Get in touch with a friendly branding agency on 01884 255999.

 

Emma Fowle: Emma graduated with a degree in design and came to Oxygen straight from college in 2012. She is experienced in design for print and web.