The registered trademark sign — ® — lets other people and businesses know that you're using a product or service for business. This is different than the ™ and SM symbols, which award some protections but aren't registered at the federal level. It's important to understand these symbols and when you can use them so you can avoid legal troubles down the road.

Trademark Symbols

Trademark, service mark, and registered mark signs — ™, SM, and ®, respectively — are meaningful symbols you'll need to know to protect your intellectual property. Note these important differences between these signs:

  • Use the ™ sign for unregistered trademarks — marks that represent goods.
  • Use the SM sign for unregistered service marks — marks that represent services.
  • Use the ® federal registration symbol for marks officially registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal law regulates the use of the federal registration symbol. Using this mark on unregistered goods or services is considered fraud. You may also only use the federally registered mark with the goods and/or services indicated in your application.

You aren't legally required to use the ™ or SM symbols, and you can enjoy trademark or service mark protections without officially registering them. However, you may register your mark in order to:

  • Notify the public of your claim to that mark.
  • Establish branding rights.
  • Dissuade others from infringing on your mark.

Note that when you register your mark, it will turn up whenever an individual searches through the Patent Office's database. This can help avoid accidental infringement. Moreover, if you ever have to take a case to court or issue a cease and desist letter against an infringing party, having an official registration will streamline the process.

Though you don't legally have to use the mark symbols to enjoy common law protections, doing so may save you from some legal consequences in the future. For example, if you ever face an enforcement action, you'll need to demonstrate that the defendant knew about your mark before the infringement happened.

If the mark is officially registered, then the defendant should have known about it. In legal terms, this is known as the defendant having “constructive knowledge” about the mark's registration.

How to Use Trademark Symbols

There's no rule about where the trademark or service mark needs to be placed next to protected material. However, it's most commonly placed in the upper right-hand or lower right-hand corner of the mark. Adhering to these common placements is recommended in order to avoid any confusion with the logo or phrase you're protecting.

If your protected content appears in an article, white paper, press release, or any other printed or electronic content, you only need to include the mark symbol once, when the protected material first appears or where it appears most prominently. You don't need to use the marks for every appearance of the trademarked or service marked content. Only use these marks for unregistered content. Note that you can't use ® until your application is accepted.

The ™ designation is for goods, and the SM designation is for services. If you need to mark something that is both a good and a service, use the ™ symbol. Only use the ® symbol for marks registered at the national level. Using this symbol for state-registered or unregistered goods and services is illegal. Don't use this symbol while your application is still pending approval.

How to Input Trademark Symbols

There are many keyboard shortcuts you can use to enter a ™, SM, or ® mark. You may also copy and paste these symbols from other sources or use superscripting in Microsoft Word — either manually in the toolbar or with hotkey Ctrl + Shift + Keypad + — to create ™ and SM.

You can also type these symbols on a few other operating systems and platforms:

  • Windows keyboards with a number pad: If you have a number pad on your keyboard, hold the Alt key down and type “0153” or “0174” to enter a ™ or ® symbol, respectively.
  • Mac OS: If you're working on a Mac, enter ⌥ Option + 2 for a ™ and ⌥ Option + R for the ® symbol.
  • Microsoft applications: On Microsoft applications, such as Word and Excel, you can press Ctrl + Alt + T to insert a ™ symbol and Ctrl + Alt + R to insert a ® symbol. You can also type, lowercase or uppercase, “(TM)” or “(R)” — the application will automatically convert this to ™ and ®, respectively.

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