A Guide to Trademark Symbols

A Guide to Trademark Symbols

In today’s competitive business landscape, safeguarding your brand’s identity is essential. That’s where trademark symbols come in.

This comprehensive guide explores the intricacies of trademark symbols, offering actionable insights tailored to business owners. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this guide will equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate trademark symbols confidently and effectively protect your brand.

Trademark Definition

Before we embark on our journey to unravel the mystery behind trademark symbols, let’s first establish what exactly a trademark is.

In essence, a trademark is a symbol, word, phrase, or design that differentiates and identifies the source of goods or services. It serves as a badge of origin, embodying the reputation and quality associated with a particular brand.

trademark definition

A trademark is more than just a logo or a catchy slogan; it encapsulates the essence of a business and fosters trust and recognition among consumers.

Exploring Intellectual Property Symbols

Before we delve deeper into trademark-specific symbols, let’s briefly touch upon other intellectual property symbols that exist.

Copyright Symbol (©)

The copyright symbol denotes ownership of original works such as literary, artistic, or musical creations. Placing the copyright symbol alongside a work signals to others that the creator holds exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display that work.


This phrase is used to inform others that a patent application has been filed with the relevant patent office but has not yet been granted. Patent-pending serves as a warning to potential infringers and can deter unauthorized use of the invention while the patent is pending.

Patent Numbers

Once a patent is granted, it is assigned a unique identification number. Including this number alongside patented products or processes helps to identify the specific intellectual property rights associated with them.

types of non-trademark intellectual property symbols

These symbols and phrases play crucial roles in safeguarding intellectual property rights and promoting innovation and creativity.

Now, let’s explore the specific trademark symbols used to protect brands and products.

The Circle-R Symbol ®: Emblem of Registered Trademarks

At the forefront of trademark symbols stands the formidable circle-R symbol – ®. This symbol denotes that a trademark is registered with the relevant authorities, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO says, “The symbol lets consumers and competitors know you’re claiming the trademark as yours.”

In several foreign countries, including many in Europe and Asia, the ® symbol is also used to indicate that a trademark is registered in that particular country.

registered trademark symbol definition

Creating the Registered Trademark Symbol (®)

Windows PC:

For most Windows applications, you can type the registered trademark symbol by holding down the “Alt” key and typing “0174” on the numeric keypad. You can also presss Ctrl+Alt+R. Or you can copy and paste the symbol from a character map or a website.


On a Mac computer, you can insert the registered trademark symbol by pressing “Option” + “R” keys simultaneously.

Understanding the Trademark Symbol (™)

When it comes to protecting your brand identity, understanding trademark symbols is essential. One of the most recognizable symbols is the trademark symbol, denoted by ™.

But what exactly does this symbol signify, and how does it fit into the broader landscape of trademarks?

The trademark symbol ™ serves as a precursor to obtaining official registration. By affixing the trademark symbol to your brand name, logo, or slogan, you declare ownership and assert your exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with your products or services.

Inserting the Trademark Symbol (™)

Windows PC:

Ensure that the Num Lock key is activated and hold down the “Alt” key while typing “0153” on the numeric keypad to insert the trademark symbol (™). You can also press Ctrl+Alt+T.


Simply press the “Option” key along with the “2” key simultaneously to insert the trademark symbol (™) at the cursor’s location.

trademark symbol service mark symbol definition

Exploring the Service Mark Symbol (SM)

In the realm of trademark symbols, the service mark symbol SM holds a distinct place, particularly in service-oriented industries. While it may not be as commonly seen as the trademark symbol, its role in distinguishing services cannot be underestimated.

Similar to the trademark symbol, the service mark symbol SM is used to denote unregistered marks that identify and distinguish services offered in commerce. However, unlike trademarks, which primarily apply to goods, service marks are specifically designed to distinguish services rather than physical products.

Whether it’s a consulting firm, a restaurant chain, or a financial institution, the service mark symbol SM indicates that the services being offered are associated with a particular provider.

The Purpose of Trademark Symbols

Trademark symbols serve a dual purpose: they safeguard your brand identity while also communicating ownership and exclusivity to consumers. By prominently displaying these symbols, businesses instill trust and credibility in their offerings, fostering brand loyalty and recognition.

Each time you use your mark, it is best to use a designation with it. Every time you use your trademark, you can use a symbol with it. The symbol lets consumers and competitors know you’re claiming the trademark as yours.

Designations for Different Stages

You can use “TM” for goods or “SM” for services even if you haven’t filed an application to register your trademark. This indicates your intent to claim rights to the mark. Once your trademark is registered with the relevant authorities, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you can use an ® with the trademark, signifying that it’s officially registered and enjoys legal protection.

Checklist: Choosing the Right Trademark Symbol for Your Business

trademark symbols checklist
☑ Registered Trademarks: ®

Use the circle-R symbol ® if your trademark is registered in the US. It indicates formal registration with the relevant authorities like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

☑ Pending or Unregistered Trademarks: ™

Use the trademark symbol ™ if your trademark is pending registration or not yet registered. It shows your intent to claim rights to the mark and deters potential infringement.

☑ Service-Oriented Businesses: SM

Consider using the service mark symbol SM to distinguish your services. It denotes unregistered marks used to identify and distinguish services offered in commerce.

☑ Important Note: Use with Registered Goods/Services

Only use the registration symbol (®) with the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the federal trademark registration.

Placement of Trademark Symbols: Where Should They Go?

Trademark symbols should ideally be placed adjacent to the trademarked asset, whether it’s a logo, a slogan, or product name. They should be prominently displayed in a visible location, ensuring maximum impact and recognition.

No specific requirements exist as to the precise use of the “®” symbol as to placement, e.g., whether used in a subscript or superscript manner. Most trademark owners use the symbol in a superscript or subscript manner to the right of the trademark.

trademark symbols placement guide

Maintain Consistency Across Platforms

When displaying trademark symbols across different platforms, such as websites, marketing materials, and product packaging, it’s essential to maintain consistency in placement. This ensures uniformity in brand presentation and facilitates easy recognition by consumers across various touchpoints.

The Importance of a Comprehensive Trademark Search

Trademark symbols are more than just visual identifiers; they represent the legal protection and goodwill associated with a brand. Therefore, ensuring the uniqueness and availability of a trademark is paramount before adopting and using it in commerce. This is where comprehensive trademark searches play a crucial role.

Elements of a Comprehensive Trademark Search

When conducting a comprehensive trademark search, it’s essential to cast a wide net and explore various databases. This includes searching federal trademark databases, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as well as state trademark databases. Additionally, searching common-law sources, such as business directories, trade publications, and online sources, can uncover unregistered trademarks that may pose a risk to your proposed mark.

Want to read more about Trademark Searches? Check out our post – Your Guide to a Comprehensive Trademark Search

trademark search - federal, state, common law

Research Analysis Following USPTO Guidelines

The USPTO provides extensive guidelines for trademark searches, including considerations for potential likelihood of confusion. This involves applying the SAM rule, which assesses similarities in Sound, Appearance, or Meaning between trademarks. Evaluating the relatedness of the goods or services associated with the trademarks is also crucial, as trademarks within similar industries or offering similar products may be more likely to cause confusion among consumers.

The SAM Rule for trademarks

Utilizing Advanced Search Techniques

To conduct a thorough trademark search, it’s essential to utilize advanced search techniques and tools. This may involve using Boolean operators, truncation, and other search modifiers to refine search results and uncover relevant trademarks. Additionally, leveraging online databases and search platforms equipped with advanced filtering options can streamline the search process and ensure comprehensive coverage.

Any comprehensive trademark search company offers this as standard; any search not hitting these points is not comprehensive.

In conclusion…

understanding trademark symbols is essential for protecting your brand identity and intellectual property. From the Circle-R symbol denoting registered trademarks to the TM symbol representing unregistered marks, each symbol serves a unique purpose in asserting ownership and deterring infringement.

Whether you’re in need of trademark search, registration, or ongoing maintenance, TradeMark Express offers expert guidance and personalized assistance every step of the way. Contact TradeMark Express today to secure your brand’s future success.

DISCLAIMER: References to particular trademarks, service marks, products, services, companies, or organizations appearing on this page are for illustrative and educational purposes only and do not constitute or imply endorsement.
The information provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. All information on the Site is provided in good faith; however, we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, validity, or completeness of any information on the Site. The Site cannot and does not contain legal advice. The legal information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Consult a licensed attorney for legal advice.

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