Citing a registered trademark is done by including the year of issuing the patent, the name(s) of the inventor(s), and the title of the patent.

When and How Do I Have to Use Trademark Symbols?

The three most used trademark symbols are the letter R in a circle ® (Registration Symbol), Service Mark (SM), and trademark (TM). The SM and TM symbols are used for unregistered marks. The SM symbol is used for marks that represent services. The TM symbol is used for marks that represent goods. The registration symbol is used for marks that have been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Using the SM and TM symbols notifies the public that the product or service is branded and should not be duplicated by another party looking to mark a similar or the same product or service. Remember, there's no legal requirement to use the SM or TM symbols, but using one will help protect your investment. Consider the fact that even accidental trademark infringement is known to disrupt the free trade of services and goods.

Federal law regulates the use of the registration symbol. The registered mark may only be on goods and services that are listed in the registration. The failure to properly register the product or service may leave you at risk for financial liability. You may lose the right to recoup money damages and lost profits if you're not able to prove that the mark was registered to you prior to the breach.

The applicable symbol should be placed in the upper right corner of the marked item and appear in superscript. However, it may be placed in the lower right corner if it appears unpractical or visually displeasing in the upper right. No symbols should be placed to the left, below, or above the mark. The placement isn't dictated by law, but a general adherence to the standard protocol is advisable.

Promotional materials, press releases, articles, and other written documents should use the SM or TM symbol with the most prominent placement of the mark or with the first instance of the mark. SM and TM should only be used on unregistered marks. For example, marks that are currently in a pending application status with the USPTO. Use SM for marks that represent services and TM for marks that represent goods. In cases where the mark is covered by both services and products, the TM symbol is advisable. Remember, the registration symbol should only be used on federally registered marks. Registering with the state doesn't qualify.

The symbol shouldn't be overused in written documents. It may cheapen the appearance of the item being marked without adding any additional legal protection. One single visible mark is preferable, usually on the most prominent display of the mark or on its first instance.

Using a Registered Trademark

The use of someone else's registered trademark doesn't require you to use quotation marks. However, you should indicate that the mark is a trademarked item and not the result of your own work. Most trademarks are identified by the letter R in circle. On a PC, simply press "Alt" along with 0174. Remember, you should never use a trademarked item in a way to suggest to a reasonable person that you're the rightful owner of the marked item.


There are instances in scholarly writing where you're not required to add the trademark. The reason is that publishers always capitalize the first letter of the marked name. Therefore, it's thought to be repetitive to include the TM symbol as well.

How Do You Use It Correctly in Writing?

Generally, a trademark should be used in the first instance that the symbol, word, device, or image is revealed. This may be in the first sentence, opening paragraph, or in the title. The International Trademark Association suggests the following:

  • In order for SMs and TMs to be distinguished from surrounding text, they should be displayed in a different manner or font. For example, use italics or capital letters.
  • Additionally, the generic noun identifying the service or product should be used directly after the trademark name at least once in each separate broadcast or written communication, preferably the initial instance that trademark appears.
  • The reason for using a trademark is to inform the public that the symbol, word, device, or image that you're utilizing is yours. Remember, displaying the trademark symbol more than once may be distracting and lead readers to view the use of the mark as unprofessional.

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