Have you ever noticed the ® and ™ next to some logos? We bet you have. Companies use these symbols to tell you these items are trademarks. A trademark doesn’t have to be a logo, though. It can also be a word, phrase, or symbol.
Trademarks help people and companies protect their brand. When a word, symbol, or logo is trademarked, it means others can’t use it without permission. This stops people from being able to make fake products in the name of another company.
Trademarks have been around for a very long time. Some cave drawings include markings that may have identified the artist. People in ancient Egypt, China, and Europe all used symbols for the same reason. In 1266, the first trademark law was for English bread bakers. They had to mark each loaf of bread they made in a special way. Today, most countries have their own trademark laws and organizations.
Both the ® and ™ symbols mean a logo is a trademark. So what exactly is the difference between them? How does a business know which one to use? It comes down to whether the company has registered its trademark.
The ™ means a trademark is not registered. The business may be applying to register its logo. It may also not plan to register it at all. Either way, ™ means a company is claiming the unregistered trademark as its own.
The ® is the registered trademark symbol. It means that the business has registered its trademark. In the US, that means it was approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). No one else can use it. If another company does try to use a registered logo, they’ll face legal trouble.
Registered trademarks last for as long as they’re in use. A trademark that’s used constantly could last forever! This makes them different from other types of registered ownership, like patents and copyrights. A trademark registration never has to be renewed, as long as it’s still being used.