How to Use the TM Symbol After Registering a Trademark
You’ve put a lot into getting your Trademark learn how to use the TM symbol and enforce it after registering a trademark – your brand depends on it.
Navigating the tricky world of trademarking and copyrighting your work is no small feat. Once you finally accomplish it, therefore, and earn that trademark for which you’ve been striving so long and so hard, it can feel tempting to rest.
However, there’s no rest for the weary in the world of trademark law and business practice. A single slipup in terms of how you use your trademark and you could set yourself back in a big way, or even endanger your trademark completely.
So what are the do’s and don’ts of using a trademark once it’s been registered, and how can you avoid some of the most common trademarking pitfalls?
What Is “Genericide” and Why Does it Matter?
“I am become a name” declares Ulysses in Tennyson’s poem of that name. Transforming yourself into a noun may be all well and good for poets and mythic heroes, but for all but the most successful companies, it could spell disaster. You want buyers to associate your brand name with your brand alone, not the general product field.
When you say “Jacuzzi,” you probably don’t think of the brand itself – or even know that it does refer to a specific brand, rather than just any old “hot tub.” The former has become so popular it’s become a catchall phrase for the latter.
That may be fine for a big company such as Jacuzzi, or Apple’s iPhone, but smaller brands need direct brand recognition. A trademark that is too general, or allowing your trademarked brand name to be genericized in reviews or descriptions by competitors can lead to “genericide” and severely damage your brand’s visibility and viability.
You worked hard to get that trademark – don’t be afraid to enforce it.
Which Mark Should You Use?
To do so, however, you first need to make sure you’re using your trademark properly in the first place. There are three main trademark symbols, and you need to know which is which and when to use each.
The TM symbol is used for the most common trademarks. Oftentimes, they are not federally registered. It is the simplest and broadest type of trademark option, covering everything from product marks to service marks. When in doubt, the TM symbol is the one most likely to apply, though it may not have the same kind of force as other options.
The SM symbol is the least common of the three. It can be used to cover service marks. It enjoys a great deal of overlap with the TM symbol, which contributes to the relative rarity of its use.
The R symbol stands for “registered trademark,” and it’s actually the strongest of the three trademark symbols. It can only be used once you have cleared federal registration and can only be used for goods and services that have received federal registration.
How Can You Make It Visible?
Once you have done all the hard work of getting a trademark cleared and registered and then worked to make sure that you’re using the right symbol to designate it, you may think you’re home free. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
To get your application through you’ve already had to dot your I’s and cross your T’s – you hardly want to let a little thing like the placement of the R or TM undermine the whole thing.
One of the biggest mistakes in terms of trademark placement is also one of the simplest to avoid – make it visible. Far too often people go to all the trouble of getting their product, name, or logo designed, or any other aspect of their company trademarked only to not actually use it, or make it so tiny that consumers can’t see it. This can raise problems if people abuse your trademark and then try to get away with it by “claiming” they couldn’t see it.
You worked hard to earn this trademark – don’t be afraid to show it off. It may not be the most exciting part of your product, but it is an aspect of it that says that you own a legitimate, registered trademark, which does indeed confer a degree of legitimacy and market cache. Your trademark should be bolded, italicized, in caps, or otherwise distinguished from your regular font. It needs to stand out to the casual consumer. It is often located to the right of the trademarked logo or name.
How Much Should It Be Used?
The frequency of trademark usage will vary depending on the medium you are trademarking:
- For a book, the title page should be sufficient
- For online material such as websites, once per page is a good rule of thumb; make sure that the trademark is static on the page and not part of ads or text that appears and disappears
- For social media, the rules for trademarking are still in flux, only tend to follow bios or usernames, and are not generally included in Posts and Tweets
What’s more, if you allow a third party to use your trademarked name, logo, or content, they should republish your material with your trademark as well so others know it is protected and to whom the content belongs.
When Can I Stop Worrying About it?
In a word – never. You have to remain constantly vigilant to make sure people are not violating your trademark or using it without your permission. What’s more, for certain types of mediums such as blogs, you need to maintain regular usage of your trademark for an extended period of time. In the case of blogs, at the end of five years, your trademark will be checked, and if you have not regularly used it or your blog is inactive, the trademark may lapse.
Make sure the trials and travails you faced in getting your trademark aren’t in vain by following these essential steps for its usage and preservation.