Updated on: Sep 29th, 2022
7 min read
A Trademark means a logo, name or symbol that helps consumers identify the goods and services of a brand/business. Trademarks indicate the source of the services or goods. There are various categories of trademarks, such as a logo, sound, word, shape, design, letters, a combination of words and letters, etc.
Trademark owners usually put the symbol ™ and Ⓡ with their trademarks. These symbols are attached to the trademarks at different stages of trademark registration. Thus, trademark owners must know the significance of these symbols and when to use them.
The TM symbol is used when a trademark owner files the trademark registration application with the Registrar of trademarks. The TM symbol indicates that a trademark registration application exists concerning the trademark and serves as a warning for infringers, copycats, duplicators and counter-fitters.
Trademark owners use the ™ symbol after a text, logo, design or picture, which they claim as their own but have not been legally registered with a regulatory authority. Usually, businesses will use the TM symbol to indicate their first usage or that they have applied for its registration. A trademark owner can use the TM symbol only after he/she has filed a trademark application with the Registrar of Trademarks.
The trademarks are classified into 45 classes, indicating the goods or services to which the mark is applied. Classes 35-45 indicate services, and 1-34 indicate goods. Some trademark owners use the TM symbol when a trademark application is filed under the 1-34 class, while others use the SM symbol for the trademark application filed under the 35-45 class. Using the TM symbol for all classes or an SM mark for a trademark application filed under classes 35-45 is acceptable.
After a trademark is registered, the trademark owner can use the Ⓡ symbol next to the trademark. The R symbol signifies that the trademark is registered and is protected from infringement under the Trademark Act, 1999. Registered trademarks mean a text, logo, design, or picture is legally registered with the Office of Registrar of Trademarks.
When a person other than the registered owner uses a trademark having the Ⓡ symbol without the owner’s prior consent, he/she can be prosecuted for trademark infringement. The registered trademark helps prevent the unauthorised use of a business’s services and products.
However, using the Ⓡ symbol after filing a trademark application but before obtaining trademark registration is unlawful. Using the Ⓡ symbol next to a trademark is allowed only once a trademark is registered. It is not mandatory to put the Ⓡ symbol next to a trademark. However, it indicates the trademark owner’s claim over the mark and its identity as being registered under the law.
The ⓒ symbol is used for copyrighted work like photography, artwork, videography, literary works, books, cinematographic works, etc. It is used with the copyright holder’s name and the year of the first publication. In some countries, using the ⓒ symbol is mandatory to claim copyright protection. However, using the ⓒ symbol as per the Berne Convention is not mandatory to claim copyright protection. India is a member of the Berne Convention, and thus copyright holders in India need not use the ⓒ symbol for their copyrighted works to claim protection.
Below is a copy of the TM symbol for the Starbucks trademark. It means Starbucks company has applied for trademark registration of its logo but has not yet received the registration.
Below is a copy of the Ⓡ symbol for the McDonald’s trademark. It means the McDonald’s company logo is a registered trademark and protected under the law.
Usually, people believe that a logo is a trademark. However, a trademark is different from a logo. The trademark provides protection to a logo. A logo means a symbol or design a company or business uses as a sign for its products or services. A trademark can be a name, letters, a combination of words and numerals, designs, sounds, etc.
For example: The half-eaten apple with a leaf is Apple company’s logo, registered as the company trademark. But not all companies have logos as their trademarks. The word ‘LOREAL’ is a trademark of the Loreal company used for its products without any design or symbol. Thus, a trademark may be a word or a logo, but a logo is a design or symbol used by a company.
A company may also obtain trademark registration for words or letters with a logo or without a logo. Trademark registration is required to protect the logo against infringers from copying them for their usage. Using a logo without a trademark registration does not grant legal protection against its unauthorised use by third parties. In other words, trademark registration provides legal rights to use logos exclusively.
Companies most widely use a logo as their trademark. They use their logos in various advertising, marketing, and products for sale. Thus, the logo is in danger if it does not have trademark protection, as anyone can use an identical logo for their products. Obtaining trademark registration for a logo in India will save the business reputation as other people will not be able to use it without permission. But, if someone uses the logo without permission, the business can file a legal case and protect the business.
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