Trade Mark symbols – what do they mean?

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Trade Mark symbols – what do they mean?

December 13th, 2021, Legal Updates

At the firm we regularly receive queries about what clients should be doing to show they have Intellectual Property Rights in the brands and logos they create and how they can best show that these are protected. Whilst it is not required, it is best practice to assert the ownership or existence of the rights when they are published, distributed or used. This can be done by using some of the standard industry symbols.

In this article we set out the symbols that should be used in respect of trade marks, their meaning and purpose.  The use of symbols applicable to copyright will be covered in a forthcoming article.

Registered Trade Marks

Image: ®

Description – A capital R contained in a circle. It is usually shown in superscript after the trade marked words, phrase or logo.

Use – This symbol is used to signify that the word, logo, name or phrase has been registered as a trade mark either at the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the UK Intellectual Property Office or another applicable office around the world. It is used to put the general public on notice that the words or symbols have been successfully registered as a trade mark and that use of that sign is subject to the controls that trade mark law provides. The symbol should not be used against any logo or words which have not yet been successfully registered as a trade mark and in many countries it is against the law do so.

Trade Mark

Image: TM

Description – a superscript TM after the trade mark.

Use – This use of this symbol simple shows that the manufacturer of the goods or supplier of the services has used those terms in a trade mark sense (such as to indicate the origin of the goods or services). However, it does not indicate that any registered protection has been given to the mark.  This may be because no application has been made to register the mark or, if an application has been made, the mark has yet to be registered.  The symbol indicates to the general public that the manufacturer or supplier is protective over the sign and so is likely to take action to protect their rights in respect of that sign. This could be by relying on the common law right of passing off (in the UK) or rights of unfair competition.

Service Mark


Description – A superscript SM after the applicable service mark

Use – Akin to the TM symbol mark above, the SM symbol relates to an unregistered service mark and historically has been used in some jurisdictions where the sign is used in respect of services (such as a law firm name) rather than in relation to goods. Where the service mark being used has been registered as a trade mark, the Registered Trade Mark symbol above should be used. This is common to both registered Trade Marks and Services Marks.

for further information, please contact Ross Waldram of GSC’s IP & Media Team on [email protected] or 0207 822 2222.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.


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