What is the difference between the TM, R and C symbols?

branding cow cartoon

Branding, in its earliest form, dates all the way back to around 2000BC and was purely used to depict ownership.

Farmers would brand their cattle to distinguish them, and craftspeople would imprint symbols on their goods to indicate their origins.

In the 3rd quarter of 2021, 1.31 million new business applications were filed in the U.S and registering for a trademark becomes tempting as the months pass.

Having your business name trademarked builds legal protection around it. It solidifies the trade name as intellectual property. As a result, it stops competitors from imitating or swiping the brand. But do you need it, right now?

A trademark is a what?

suit of armor gif

A trademark acts like a suit of armour that deters others from using the company’s branding.

Yes, it can become quite “heavy” with all the requirements for registration but you’ll be happy if your brand is wearing protection in the middle of a legal “battle”.

Trademarks are in effect once they are used commercially, so you don’t need to register a trademark to own one. 

However, registering a trademark makes it easier to enforce while offering wider protection depending on where your business operates.

Kinds of trademarks

What is the ™ symbol?

The sign simply signals that the logo or name is used by a legal business. Companies that have amusing names can use the  sign to warn copyright violators to signal that hey, we’re a legit business, bruh.

If your company brand, at a glance, can be identified as a business, the  sign can be left out. All businesses or companies are automatically trademarked and don’t need to display the  symbol.

unregistered trademark sample

What is the ℠ symbol?

The ℠ or service mark functions similarly to a symbol. It’s used to provide notice of a claim of common law rights in a mark, but it’s associated with services such as accounting, bookkeeping, legal services and the like.

What is the ® symbol?

After registering a trademark, you may use the ® sign next to the logo or name. The ® sign indicates that the brand has been registered and is protected against misuse under trademark law.

It’s illegal to use the ® sign without securing an official trademark application.

registered trademark sample

What is the © symbol?

The © is a symbol that stands in for the word copyright. It’s generally followed by the year of release or development and the owner’s identity.

Oftentimes, the © sign is not necessary to secure because content, once published, is protected by default.

copyright sample

What is the difference between the TM, R and C symbols?

logotrademark infographic

Which trademark should I apply in design?

The ® on a product means that it’s a registered trademark, meaning the brand name or logo is protected by or officially registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Once you’re registered, put it up for people to see. Legally, it’s the best protection for your brand.

Although optional, the © mark may not be necessary for your business but it’s a good reminder for people to cite sources or link back to your digital content.

On the other hand, the and ℠ marks are simply informal methods of telling the public that you possess rights to a term, phrase, and/or logo. If these symbols will make the design more crowded than it already is, consider excluding it.

To mark or not to mark, that is the question

The use of trademark signs isn’t necessary by law, although it’s desirable. If your company logo or name is more than a million dollars in value, consider registering it as protection.

If you are a founder of a startup, consider securing the rights or the patent for your innovations first. It might be more valuable than the company’s name.

Know your priorities and be one step ahead. Protect what is yours and if you know you’re going to go out of business if the brand gets stolen, protect it fiercely.

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