In the world of commerce, the “®” symbol (referred to as the “Circle R”) conveys a very important meaning. The “®” signifies that a trademark or service mark has been federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The “®” designation is regularly used by owners of registered trademarks to put the world on actual notice of their federal trademark rights and to deter others who may be considering adopting an identical or confusingly similar mark.
As a side note, just because you see the “®” symbol next to a trademark, do not assume that the mark is actually registered with the USPTO. It is very possible that the registration may have been cancelled, the mark was never registered to begin with, or the mark is merely the subject of a pending trademark application that has not yet matured into a registration. So, if you ever want to know for sure whether a particular trademark is registered, you will have to conduct a thorough and comprehensive search of the USPTO records.
“®” vs. “TM” and “SM”
The “®” symbol should not be used with a particular trademark until the USPTO officially issues the certificate of registration. Instead, the “TM” or “SM” symbols may be used to alert the public to a claim of ownership in the mark. Once the mark is registered by the USPTO, the “®” designation can be substituted in place of the “TM” or “SM.” I invite you to read my brief article regarding the proper use of the “TM” and “SM” designations in connection with unregistered trademarks.
Proper Placement of the “®” Trademark Symbol
It is recommended that the “®” symbol be used in connection with all registered trademarks. The “®” should either be placed to the lower right (subscript) or to the upper right (superscript) of the actual mark. The COCA-COLA example below illustrates a subscript placement. The CITIBANK example below illustrates a superscript placement.
Proper Use of the Registered Trademark Symbol
It is important to note that the “®” symbol can only be used with a registered trademark when the trademark is being used to advertise and sell the products/services recited in the certificate of registration. For instance, let’s say that a company obtains a federal trademark registration for XYZ for “t-shirts.” But, let’s say the company also sells hats and backpacks under the same XYZ trademark. This company may use the “®” registered trademark symbol when the XYZ mark is being used to advertise and sell t-shirts (e.g. XYZ®), but not when the XYZ mark is being used to advertise and sell hats and backpacks. Instead, the company may use the “TM” for hats and backpacks (e.g. XYZ™). If the company later applies to register XYZ for hats and backpacks and is eventually granted a registration, then it can replace the “TM” with the “®.”
Why Should You Use the Registered Trademark Symbol?
Once the USPTO issues the certificate of registration, the trademark owner should use the “®” symbol in conjunction with its trademark or service mark. Even though use of the “®” is optional, a registered trademark owner who fails to use the “®” is barred from recovering profits and damages in a trademark infringement lawsuit unless the infringer had actual notice of the trademark registration (which may be quite difficult to prove in many cases). The owner of the registered trademark may still be able to stop the infringing party from continuing to use the mark, but monetary compensation could become much tougher to get.
Do You Want the Ability to Use the “®” Symbol?
Only by registering your trademark or service mark with the USPTO will you obtain the maximum protection under the law and the right to use the “®” symbol to notify and deter your competitors. If you have any questions about trademarks in general, or if you are ready to safeguard your trademark through federal registration, please feel free to contact me for a no-obligation consultation. I may be reached at (314) 749-4059, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out the contact form located on every page of my website. As an experienced and dedicated US trademark attorney, I will offer the assistance and guidance you need to protect your most valuable assets…your trademarks.