trademark and copyright symbols Munch Studio Blog

Trademarks: What is the difference between the TM, R and C symbols?

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a design, symbol, word, sound or phrase that identifies the source of products or services and distinguishes them from competitors’ offerings. Business names, logos, slogans, jingles and product labels can all be protected by trademark law.

Different trademark symbols are used to indicate how the mark is protected.

Should you include a trademark symbol in your logo?

The ® symbol means ‘registered’ and therefore can only be used once the mark has been officially registered with the trademark office of your country, not while the application is pending—that’s the Intellectual Property Office in the UK and the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in the USA.

‘TM’ and ‘SM’ are typically used to protect unregistered marks, meaning you don’t have to apply for registration to use them.

They both give notice of ownership of rights alerting potential infringers that the mark is being claimed as a trademark. They offer no real legal protection but can, however, be used as a deterrent.

‘SM’ means ‘service mark’ and is supposed to be used for services, whereas ‘TM’ (trademark) should be used for goods. However, ™ is commonly applied to both.

Copyright symbol

The © is a substitute sign for the word copyright. It is usually followed by the year of the publication or creation and the owner’s name. Today the ‘C’ symbol is no longer required to protect your work as it’s automatically protected when the work is created.


This blog post takes inspiration from the following articles and associated resources.

UK: Intellectual Property Office


Munch Studio is a boutique design agency that specialises in corporate identity design, logo animation and other brand expressions.

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