TM or R? Don’t get caught making this trademark symbol faux pas

25 April, 2019

Businesses often use the symbols ® and ™ alongside their brand to show that they’ve claimed their mark, but did you know that there’s a big difference between them? Using the wrong one can have some serious consequences. Read on and make sure you’re trademark symbol savy.

Trademark symbols, while not required by law, are a visual way of telling the public that you claim ownership of the preceding word, phrase, logo, etc. They usually appear as superscript in the upper right corner of a mark. Using them correctly can deter copycats from using your mark and also provide evidence in your favor in the case of an infringement suit.

This symbol should be used for common law marks that are not federally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This includes trademarks registered at the state level, as well as marks pending registration with the USPTO. In the U.S., the ™ symbol is used broadly to cover marks for both products and services. If your trademark is not registered by the USPTO, you should use the ™ symbol.


This symbol is used exclusively for marks registered with the USPTO, and can only be used once federal registration is granted — a pending application for your mark isn’t enough. It should also only be used in connection with products or services listed on your federal trademark registration. If you use this symbol with a mark not registered by the USPTO, it may be considered trademark fraud, and hinder your chance of being able to register the mark in the future.

There’s one more! This is the service-mark symbol, which can be used for unregistered marks of services. It isn’t commonly used, since the ™ symbol covers both products and services, and is more widely recognized.


The main takeaway is that you should not use ® next to your trademark unless and until your name is successfully registered with the USPTO. Otherwise, using ™ is a safe bet.