A common question among trademark owners is what’s the difference between the ™ symbol and the ® symbol and when can I use them on my trademarks. It is also a common misconception that you have to obtain a federal trademark registration on your trademark before you can use the ™ symbol. That is not the case.
You may use the ™ symbol on a trademark even though the trademark is not registered (or even applied for). Thus, whether you have a trademark application pending at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but it has not reached registration yet, or you have yet to file a trademark application, you may use the ™ symbol on your trademark. The ™ symbol is notice to others that you are using a word, phrase or logo as a trademark. It also potentially wards off third parties from using the same or similar mark. Thus, once you begin using a trademark on a good or service you are providing, you may use the ™ symbol on the mark (or the ℠ symbol if you prefer to distinguish a service mark although ™ may be used on trademarks used in connection with goods or services). Note – although this is a whole new topic for another article, you should make sure that another party is not already using the same or similar trademark in the same, similar or related area before you begin using the trademark.
As for the ® symbol, you may use that once the U.S. Patent and Trademark office issues a registration for your trademark. You should not to use the ® symbol on your trademark prior to obtaining a federal registration – such use is considered a misrepresentation to the public that you have a federally registered mark. Upon registration, you may (and should) use the ® symbol on the trademark.
This ® symbol provides notice to others that you have a federal registration. It is important to note that the failure to include the ® symbol can potentially result in a limitation in damages that you would have been entitled to in a trademark infringement action as your damages could potentially run later. Thus, it is beneficial to include the ® registration symbol once the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office issues the registration to you.
For additional information, please contact Kim Grimsley at firstname.lastname@example.org.