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Trademark Symbol: Definition, Where to Use

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Trademark symbols are a great way to protect the intellectual property that identifies your company. With a trademark, you can prevent consumers and competitors from using your company logos, slogans, catchphrases, colors, and other elements that give you an advantage in the market.

In the article below, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about trademark symbols:

What is a Trademark Symbol?

Trademark symbols are legal notations that protect your intellectual property. Trademark symbols protect trademarks, which can include elements of trade dress, such as logos, slogans, and colors. Since trademarks protect your unregistered company trademark, you can affix a ™ to safeguard them. You could also create greater asset security by registering your trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and use the R symbol, or ®, instead.

Here is an article that further defines trademark symbols.

Owning a Trademark vs. Having a Registered Trademark

Owning a trademark refers to having the legal rights to use a particular mark to identify your goods or services in commerce. Anyone can affix the trademark symbol to their proprietary and marketing materials. Having a registered trademark is when you physically receive confirmation from the USPTO that your trademarks are on file and protected.

This web page also explains owning trademarks vs. having registered trademarks.

What is the Meaning of “TM”?

TM is an acronym for “ Trademark.” This designation protects words, phrases, colors, slogans, and logos that make a company unique. The legal symbol is ™.

It’s essential to protect your trademarks through the USPTO since your brand is an intangible asset. You can use a TM to protect service marks and trademarks, although it is most commonly used with trademarks.

“TM” vs. ®

Use the trademark symbol if you didn’t register your work throughout the USPTO. On the other hand, you can use the registered trademark symbol if you did register it. This registration signifies to others that your logos, slogans, and various company designs are protected.

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How Do You Get the TM Symbol?

You can get the TM symbol by handwriting it on paper, using a word processor, or through graphic design. Since the TM symbol is not found on a standard keyboard, you can usually find it through a combination of keys or built-in application symbols.

Below, we’ve listed six specific ways to get a digital TM symbol:

  • Method 1. Hold the “Alt” button on a keyboard, type “0153,” and release keys.
  • Method 2. Use the built-in symbols under “Insert” in Microsoft word.
  • Method 3. Search Google for “TM symbol” and copy-paste the result.
  • Method 4. Use the built-in special characters under “Insert” in Google Docs.
  • Method 5. Hire a graphic designer to create a unique look for your logo.
  • Method 6. Use special characters in your iPhone or Android on mobile.

Use a ® with your trademark after you’ve registered it with the USPTO. The trademark symbol informs consumers and competitors that you are claiming ownership of that trademark. Even if you haven’t applied to register your trademark, you can use “TM” for goods and “SM” for services.

How Do You Get the R Symbol?

The R symbol is a Unicode character that can be accessed through keyboard shortcuts or character maps. One shortcut is to hold the “Alt” button, type “0174,” and release the keys if you’re on a keyboard. Using the R symbol signifies that you registered your trademark and is searchable via the USPTO trademark database.

How to Register a Trademark

Registering a trademark can take several months, or longer, through the USPTO. There is the possibility of encountering objections or opposition during the application process. The first phase of trademark registration starts with an audit and trademark search . Then, you move to the second phase, which is a rigid trademark application process.

The USPTO then needs to perform its due diligence to ensure that no one else claims the right to your trademark. However, once you make it through the application process, you essentially become part of a searchable database of protected IP owners. If someone else shares your same ideas, then they at least have the chance to learn that you claim ownership formally.

Take the following seven steps to register a trademark:

  • Step 1. Determine if your trademark satisfies requirements
  • Step 2. Conduct a preliminary trademark search
  • Step 3. Register with your trademark with the USPTO
  • Step 4. Fill out your application completely and accurately
  • Step 5. Submit your application and pay the application fee
  • Step 6. Respond to the USPTO’s questions

The USPTO will publish trademarks for opposition in its Trademark Official Gazette (TMOG) for 30 days. During this time, anyone who believes your trademark registration will harm their business may file an objection (or “opposition”).

If there’s no opposition, the USPTO will issue a registration three months after TMOG publication. However, the timeframe for issuance can vary, and three months is not guaranteed. You may want to allow others to use your trademark in exchange for a royalty fee once it has been registered. A trademark license agreement is the best way to set up this type of arrangement.

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Where Do You Use a Trademark Symbol?

It is beneficial to affix trademark symbols to your company’s trade dress, but it is not required by law and completely optional. These symbols are ways of informing the public that you own trademark rights to a word, phrase, or logo.

If someone uses your protected works, you can file a civil claim against them. However, if you’re willing to take someone to court over trademark use, you should probably think about registering it as soon as possible.

Here are a few other rules to consider:

Rule 1. Placement

The designation should come after the trademark. Depending on the situation, place the symbol in superscript in the upper right-hand corner or subscript in the lower right-hand corner.

Rule 2. Use Frequency

It’s more important to use a trademark symbol in the first prominent mention of a trademark than to use it repeatedly. As a result, you don’t have to use the trademark symbol each time it’s mentioned. Every time the mark is used, the symbol does not have to be used.

This strategy avoids a cluttered look in written documents and web pages. However, it’s perfectly fine to design the symbol into your logo inconspicuously.

Rule 3. Third-Party Use

When you permit someone else to use your trademarks, make sure they use them correctly. It’s also critical that you keep an eye on the licensee’s activities to ensure consistency and IP protection.

Provide guidelines for third-party usage if possible. You should also request that licensees send back use samples routinely. Finally, review third-party uses of your trademarks in the marketplace with an eye toward appropriate, non-generic usage.

Rule 4. Maintaining Trademarks

The registration and maintenance of your trademark with the USPTO is your responsibility. There’s a convenient online portal available on their website to assist you in this endeavor.

It’s also your responsibility to keep track of trademarks and continue to use them. This element can become challenging to manage, especially when developing several brands and product lines.

Trademark protection can last an indefinite amount of time. However, failure to use or prevent others from illegally using your trademarks can result in a permanent loss of federal protections.

Get Legal Help with Trademark Symbols

Your brand is the lifeblood of your company. Ensure that you protect it and manage risk by filing a trademark application with the USPTO. Trademark application lawyers can help you register your trademark symbols and protect other intellectual property, such as patents and copyrights.

Post a project in ContractsCounsel’s marketplace to get free bids from trademark lawyers. All lawyers are vetted by our team and peer reviewed by our customers for you to explore before hiring.


ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.


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Recent Project:
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Location: Texas
Turnaround: Less than a week
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Bid Range: $499 - $4,750

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Recent Project:
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Location: Florida
Turnaround: Over a week
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