Trademarks: TM, SM or ®?

Ever wondered what the difference is between the “TM,” “SM,” and “®” that you commonly see next to a business’s name or logo? Putting a TM, SM, or ® next to your business’s name or logo (or slogan, or anything else that can be trademarked) is a way to let the world know that you are staking your claim on that trademark. But whether you should use TM, SM, or ® will depend on the type of business you are operating, and the current status of your trademark.

TM: Just in case it isn’t already obvious, “TM” stands for “trademark.” Putting a TM next to your business name or logo means that you believe that you have common law trademark ownership of the name or logo. The trademark does not have to be registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office before you can use the TM designation.

SM: This stands for “service mark.” It is used in the exact same way and for the same purpose as TM, except that SM is commonly used for service-based businesses. If your business sells products or tangible items, then you would use TM to assert your trademark ownership. If your business sells services, on the other hand, then you could use SM instead. But, a service-based business can also use TM; they are not restricted to only using SM. It is really just a matter of personal choice if you want to use TM or SM. Both will accomplish the same goal: letting the general public know that you are asserting trademark ownership of your business name or logo under common law.

®: This symbol is a little different. Using the ® next to your business name or logo is reserved specifically for those who have a federally registered trademark. You may have noticed that the title screen of my video says “All Up In Yo’ Business ®.”  That is because I applied for a registered trademark of All Up In Yo’ Business. After months and months and mooooooonths of waiting through the registration process, All Up In Yo’ Business was finally registered with the USPTO. So now I get to put ® next to All Up In Yo’ Business to let the world know that I have a federally registered trademark ownership of it.

The bottom line is: if you want to protect your business’s name/logo/whatever it is, you can put TM or SM next to it. If you want to join the cool kids club and use ® instead, you first need to get your trademark federally registered with the USPTO.