Here’s When You Use a Registered Trademark Versus a Trademark Symbol

It’ll be Christmas in less than a week and for some of you designers, your desk just got more cluttered. You’re working late at nights and up as your alarm goes off the next morning. You’re doing this all in an effort to meet your deadlines and satisfy your clients as you’ve always done. If one of your projects just happens to be a logo design, identity and branding then you’ll find this blog useful.

The question was asked by a fellow graphic designer in a designers forum and closed group, Jamaica Design Association: “Is it okay to use Registered Trademark and Trademark together?”

The trademark (or trade mark) symbol is an unregistered trademark, used to promote or brand goods. In contrast, the registered trademark ® is exactly what its name implies, a legally registered logo (mark or icon).

Typically its one or the other even if a logo has been redesigned. But in some instances, you’ll see the trademark symbol beside the tagline if it came after the logo had been successfully registered as a trademark. Only when a logo is registered with a government body (Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) in Jamaica’s case), can you display the registered trademark symbol.

In the United States, your client can choose whether they want to register their logo at the national level or at the state level. A federal registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides broader coverage but is more expensive than a state trademark registration.

It is important for you and other designers to understand the proper usage of each symbol and to also educate their clients on what is involved in getting a registered trademark for their logo.

For a bit more information*, you can start off by telling your client(s) that they should protect their intellectual property against infringement. A registered trademark may begin legal proceedings for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorised usage of that logo, but registration is not requirement.

Your client can also file a suit with a common law trademark. The downside of an unregistered logo is that it may only be protected within your country. If your client plans to promote brand goods in other countries then it is best to apply for your logo to be registered.

*℠ sm for an unregistered service mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand services.

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