Quick Definition of Trademarks

Trademarks are important and valuable assets for most businesses.  A trademark is any word, name, symbol or device (or any combination thereof) that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods from one company versus another. Trademarks protect both the company and the public from imitators.

Using Trademark Symbols

Preferred Usage: In press releases and business writing, it is recommended to use the trademark symbol [superscript ® or TM] on the first instance only or with the most prominent use of the mark. The remaining instances should be without the symbol.  Always use the full trademarked name and proper capitalization.

Possible Exceptions: If the first instance is in the title, then can use the symbol on the first instance in the text.

Additional Notes: When using logos, always include the ® or ™ in every instance.  Putting the trademark symbols on other companies’ marks is not necessary but permissible if using it to truthfully refer to another company’s product and not mislead affiliation, sponsorship or endorsement of your company, products or services.

AP Style

  • AP does not use either the TM symbol or ® in any of its news copy but will capitalize or use an initial cap  (e.g. Kalydeco, Roquefort cheese or Tabasco sauce).
  • If a brand name that is trademarked all in caps, determine whether it is a “word” mark or a “graphic” trademark. If it is a “word” mark, do not keep all caps.

What is the difference between the marks?

The ® symbol and the abbreviation Reg. indicate that the mark is registered in one or more countries. 

The designations TM and SM are often used for trademarks and service marks that are not registered, and serve as informal public notices that a word, logo, slogan, design, etc., is being used as a mark and reflects the owner’s intent to claim trademark rights in the mark. However, the right to use one of these symbols does not guarantee that the owner will succeed in a claim under the trademark laws.

What about different countries?

Trademark rights and rules vary from country to country.  Before using a mark in any country, the local trademark law should be verified, and the use of trademarks should conform to local laws and be in the local language(s). An expert in the field should be consulted.

RESOURCES:

Downloadable Guides from International Trademark Association (INTA)

Quick fact sheet from INTA

Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) from the USPTO

Blog: Using trademark symbols in other writing

Wikipedia: Trademark

History of trademark law

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