When we deliver logo designs to clients, we send them three file variations: one with the logo as-is, one with the ™ (trademark) or ℠ (service mark) symbol, and one with the ® (register) symbol next to it. Clients often wonder why they need the latter two. The short answer: to claim intellectual property rights over their logo. The logical follow up question is what’s the difference between the ™, ℠, and ® symbols?
The Difference Between the TM, SM and R Symbols
The trademark symbol (™), which connotes goods, could indicate to others that the logo is about to be registered. Placing the ™ next to your logo also serves as a notice to potential infringers that your logo has not been registered yet, but you claim rights over it. A service mark (℠) references services, not goods like the trademark. Neither a service mark or a trademark requires registration to use. Using either mark establishes common law rights; however, a federal registration may provide more benefits and protection if litigation is ever pursued. When both a service mark and trademark are federally registered, the standard registration symbol will become a R with a circle around it (®).
The ® means that your logo has been officially registered and approved of by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and it is not infringing upon anyone else’s intellectual property.
I don’t do something because I think it will sell 30 million albums. I couldn’t care less. If it sells one, it sells one. Too many jazz pianists limit themselves to a personal style, a trademark, so to speak.
-Oscar Peterson, Canadian jazz pianist and composer.
What does the © (copyright) symbol mean? It indicates exclusive rights to the creator of a work, whether published or unpublished. The most common, noticeable location of the symbol is near the bottom of a webpage where you can also find the year of initial publication and the author name. Like the above mentioned symbols, it wards off infringement claims. You don’t need to get permission from, or register with, the copyright office to use the copyright notice. However the main focus of this article is more so on how and when to use the ™, SM, and ® symbols with your logo design.
To reiterate the intro to this piece, its proper to have three file versions: one without a mark, one with a ™ or ℠, and one with a ® as each one designates different periods and levels of protection. The ™ and ℠ are immediately available for use and functions as a light protection during the registration process. The ® version has to be used for the application of registration and after registration is granted.
How to Trademark Your Logo?
Before registering your logo with the USPTO, it is wise to conduct a search to determine if someone else has registered it or a similar logo mark. If it is not registered yet, take the following steps:
- Fill the application form on the USPTO website
- Pay the applicable fee
- Wait for approval
Depending on the type of application, applicants need to pay a fee that’s between $225 and $400, unless additional fees apply. The process usually takes about three to four months. If the examining attorney approves the application, the trademarked logo will be registered and published in the Official Gazette.