Being deeply involved in Intellectual Property (IP), as we usually are at IP Docketers’ trademark, makes it essential to remember that the general public must more generally understand specific facts concerning this field.
In the modern world, we take a lot of signs and symbols for granted, including those on packaging and containers. Regarding the specifics of trademark rights, someone might ask, “What does the R inside a circle mean?” But occasionally, curiosity demands a second look.
As professionals, we are just as glad to respond to simple inquiries like these as we handle questions about some of the trickiest aspects of the legal process! Let’s begin straight away.
The fundamentals of trademark symbols
Can find The following three trademark symbols on product packaging, company signage, printed or digital advertisements, and in other places:
- The trademark abbreviation is TM (TM). The International Trademark Association claims it is typically associated with an unregistered mark.
- A service mark, or SM (SM), serves the same purpose as a trademark but designates a service instead of a product. Like its predecessor, it is, of course, applied to unregistered marks.
- R (®) — A brand or service mark filed with at least one national and international IP office. In this regard, care must be clutch to specify the nation, as it is illegal in many jurisdictions to falsely claim that a trademark is registered when it is not. Without a different indication, such as using an asterisk (*) followed by a list of the nations where the brand is registered, packaging that shows the ® symbol, for instance, may cause issues.
Despite the Latin alphabet symbols used in these markings, anyone who works with intellectual property can quickly recognise them wherever in the globe. The registered trademark sign is the least frequent of the three, whilst the SM symbol is at the other extreme.
What distinguishes the R and TM symbols from one another?
These two marks differ in a straightforward but essential way. As stated, the registration office can only use the ® sign with trade or service marks registered with a body like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Conversely, TM can second-hand any unregistered mark that meets the standard definition of a trademark, including a logo, symbol, slogan, picture, drawing, or some combination of these.
Compared to their unregistered equivalents, registered trademarks have more legal clout. You would have various legal tools to stop someone from misappropriating your registered trademark and using it anywhere in the country or countries that have written it down, which would be an infringement. These include court-ordered injunctions, cease-and-desist letters from your trademark attorney, and monetary damages for any revenue you may have lost due to the breach. Steeper fines are possible if your attorney successfully argues that the offender intentionally violated your trademark or broke a statute prohibiting counterfeiting. If the infringement is proven intentional, the monetary amount for damages may be more significant in various jurisdictions.
Unregistered trademarks may not have complete protection from willful infringement, but they do not have much in their favour. It might be the bar by those rules regarding passing off or even by copyright laws involving the protection of creative work if a company in your city or state attempted to use your unregistered mark for its goods or services. We must emphasise that this security needs to make sure, though.
The same rules probably wouldn’t apply if the same event happened to your unregistered trademark halfway across the planet. Due to the distance between the two firms and the unregistered status of the mark, it would be challenging to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it had established an environment of unfair competition. However, trademark rights offer a prima facie statute right, a key benefit of registration.
Lastly, remember that the ability to licence your trademark for use by third parties and get royalties is yet another critical benefit of registration. Unregistered trademarks and service marks may be welcome in several nations, but practical issues may harm a company’s reputation and goodwill.
What actions need you to perform to qualify for the R symbol?
Using the ® symbol appears straightforward at first glance: Submit a trademark application to the relevant IP authority in your region. Things are not quite as cut and dry in practice. For instance, most jurisdictions prohibit its usage until a trademark registration is approved and registered, and they must continuously check marketing materials for compliance.
There are many use bases for registration in addition to the fundamental data on the file. (a notable example, an explanation of the brand’s relevance for your company, a description of the products it applies to, etc.). Depending on the country, you may need to demonstrate that you are currently using the trademark in commerce (in its unregistered, TM-adorned form) or that you plan to do so soon.
Theoretically, anyone might use your unregistered mark throughout this processing phase. However, following registration in most jurisdictions, the rights to a trademark are retroactively granted to the filing date. To minimise potential harm, you must act quickly, file the necessary filings, and reply to office requests as soon as possible. Before filing, it’s also a good idea to undertake a preliminary clearance search to ascertain the likelihood of successful registration and determine whether you may use a trademark without endangering the rights of others. Thankfully, the time required to register a trademark in many nations is regular in months rather than years.
Suppose you submit the application correctly on your first try (presumably with a knowledgeable trademark attorney) and pay all necessary costs. Depending on the jurisdiction and processing procedures, you can record in as little as six or seven months. This cycle can stay if there are things that could improve in your first application or opposition. In either of these cases, the timetable for settlement could be more transparent for us to estimate how long it will take.
How can you continue to use your trademark as registered?
The simplest way to ensure the perpetual existence of your trademark is to submit renewal applications and make timely payments of renewal costs. That is ten years from the application or registration date in most countries. Many IP offices also ask that you supply evidence of your trademark end in the interim with your renewal application and fees or, in the absence of proof, that you have attempted to use the mark but needed clarification on events beyond your control.
If the nation where you initially registered the sport is a member of the Madrid System, you can also extend the protections afforded to your mark by submitting it to the WIPO. By doing this, you will effectively provide the 108 members of the Madrid Union (representing 124 nations) access to the protections you currently have.
Always seek advice from seasoned authorities in trademark registration and regulation when navigating these simple or convoluted approaches. Find out what we can do to support your brand identity.