Watson IP Group

Watson IP Group

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What is the difference between TM, SM, and ®Symbols?

The Use of Different Trademark Marks

Only a Federally Registered Trademark can use the coveted “circle R”, or ®. That is, it is improper under the law to use the “circle R” unless and until your trademark is Federally Registered. If a trademark is Federally Registered, it is an important deterrent to infringement to use the “circle R” symbol to provide notice to others of its Federal Registration.

On the other hand, the marks TM and SM, referring to “trademark” and “service mark” do not have a legal significance. These symbols typically mean only that the owner deems these marks to be trademarks or service marks of the business, and, the owner is accruing common law rights to the marks. It is a best practice to use the TM or the SM in the upper right hand corner of a mark that you deem a trademark of yours that is not registered, until Federal Trademark Registration is secured. Such symbols have been known to have a deterrent effect by placing others on notice of your use of the mark and your having at least some common law rights to the mark.

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