Proper use of the TM and

johnany's picture

I'm trying to find a definitive answer as to when you have to use the trademark symbol. I have always thought that you used the trademark symbol the first time a term appeared in context. Every other occurence of that word within the rest of the document did not need to carry the symbol, as it was covered by the first use.

I've recently picked up a client who has every occurence of thier trademark terms identified on every document. This is a visual nightmare, as you can immagine, and I would like to change this. I have been trying to find some actual literature regarding the proper use however I haven't found anything online, nor in my handy Bringhurst book.

Is there an actual rule? If so, what is it? Is there a book or official online document I could refer to?

kentlew's picture

John --

The trademark symbol (™) is used to indicate a mark which a company considers to be a unique trademark, whether registered or not. The TM symbol has no legal significance, but only serves to notify the public that the mark owner views the mark as a protectable trademark. The circle-R (®) mark is used when the trademark has been duly registered with the appropriate government office. In the U.S. this is the Patent and Trademark Office. *

The circle-R symbol should be used systematically to identify a registered mark when using it to promote a product or service, in order to secure maximum legal protection. I take this to mean primarily advertising and packaging. This does not necessarily apply to running text which makes editorial mention of trademarks.

As far as when/how it is used outside of ads and packaging, that is usually a matter of editorial style. The Chicago Manual of Style declares that the symbols are not necessary in running text. Some other house styles that I'm aware of tend to follow your example of using it for the first instance only.

The TM had no legal standing, so using it for every occurrence serves no real purpose.


-- Kent.

* My information comes from Patent, Copyright, & Trademark by Stephen Elias (Nolo Press).

hrant's picture

> The TM symbol has no legal significance, but only serves to notify the public

Which is however exactly why many people (like John's client) use it the BEAT PEOPLE OVER THE HEAD WITH.


daveaux's picture

I used to work for a man who insisted on me using "SM" (Service Mark) with every appearance of his (I'm sure unregistered) logo, in addition to every time the name of one of his products was referenced.

I had assumed that "SM" was only used when representing a product or service name (almost like the "d.b.a." of the product/service world), but not with a logo device. Of course, being my employer, I did whatever he asked

PYMadlon's picture

The Lanham Act covers trademark and other -mark law. Here it is:

...and here is its definition of a service mark:

...and the registrability of an SM:

I don't think a trademark or a service mark are worth much unless registered, despite popular assumption. I do believe that both do offer some protection.

daveaux's picture

Thanks for the info.

That clears up everything (and is now safely bookmarked).

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