A trademark is an important intangible asset to a company, individual or entity which takes the form of a distinctive sign on goods and services. The sign is identified by consumers to distinguish a product from the similar goods or services offered by other entities.
It may come in the form of a logo, image, sound, or words. A trademark is indicated by a trademark symbol which can come in several forms. An unregistered trademark has a superscripted “TM”, an unregistered service mark has a superscripted “SM” and a registered trademark has a superscripted circled “R”. Not only can a person identify if a mark is owned by an entity, but they will also know if it has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Unregistered Trademark Symbol:
A company or entity may begin using a trademark immediately, no matter if it is a logo, sound, phrase or picture. They may place it in their advertisements, products and/or services to help establish themselves within the public eye. An unregistered trademark, while protected under United States intellectual property, does not have full protection offered through registration with the USPTO . Any person will be able to know if a trademark is registered by the trademark symbol which follows the actual trademark. It comes in the form of a super scripted “TM” (™).
Unregistered Service Mark:
A company may begin using service marks to establish themselves within the public eye immediately after their creation. Service marks are marks used to identify a company’s services rather than products and are indicated by a superscripted “SM” (℠).
This service mark symbol also shows that the service mark is not registered with or has not yet been approved by the USPTO. It also does not have full protection should another company or entity infringe on the service mark.
Registered Trademark Symbol:
It is in a company’s best interest to protect their trademark symbol and service mark from infringement and keep those marks distinct in the public eye. To accomplish this, a company should register their marks with the USPTO, the organization which approves and holds records of registered trademarks and service marks.
When a mark is registered, it is given full legal protection for infringement, and the mark will then be granted a superscripted circled “R” (®). A mark is given a valid registration for a certain amount of time until it must be renewed again. A company may renew the registration as many times as they need.