You have likely seen the “TM” trademark symbol used in combination with various trademarks. The “TM” designation is widely utilized by individuals, businesses, and organizations to alert the public of their claim of ownership in a particular mark. Of course, using a “TM” does not necessarily mean that the user of the mark actually owns any common law or federal trademark rights whatsoever. For example, if I was to start selling soda under the name “COCA-COLA™,” I would be a dirty little infringer since I clearly cannot obtain any trademark rights in the famous COCA-COLA name.
Once a trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), the owner of the trademark may use the “®” designation in place of the “TM” in order to provide notice to the world that the trademark is federally registered.
Proper Placement of the “TM” Trademark Symbol
The use of the “TM” symbol is completely optional. However, if it is used, the “TM” should either be placed to the lower right (subscript) or to the upper right (superscript) of the actual trademark. The SUBWAY example below illustrates a subscript placement. The GMAIL example below illustrates a superscript placement.
TM vs SM
What is the difference between the “TM” and “SM” designations? The “TM” symbol stands for “trademark” and is used in conjunction with marks that identify products. On the other hand, the “SM” symbol denotes a “service mark” and is used in conjunction with marks that identify services. However, it is perfectly acceptable to use the “TM” designation regardless of whether the particular mark identifies a product or a service.
Both the “TM” and “SM” symbols may be used with any unregistered mark. There is no requirement that there be a pending application seeking registration of the mark with the USPTO. The “TM” and “SM” can also be used with federally registered marks in place of the “®” symbol if the owner so chooses. However, it is strongly recommended that the “®” be used with registered marks in order to preserve the right to receive certain monetary compensation should you ever have to pursue a trademark infringement lawsuit. I encourage you to read my article about proper use and placement of the “®” when you have the chance.
It is Important to Understand Which Trademark Symbol to Use
The rules governing trademarks and trademark symbols can be rather confusing. So, if you have any questions about the proper use of the “TM,” “SM,” or “®” symbols in connection with a new or existing trademark or service mark, please do not hesitate to contact me (a US trademark attorney) for a free consultation. Also, be sure to ask how I can help clear and protect your trademarks so that you can minimize the risk of inadvertently violating someone else’s intellectual property rights. I may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (314) 749-4059, or through the contact form found on every page of my website. As always, I look forward to discussing your trademark questions and concerns.