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What is a trademark?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a trademark as a “word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services”. The purpose of trademarks is to identify the source of your products, differentiating them from products and services of other companies. The owner of a trademark gets exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with its specific goods and/or services.

Examples are popular trademarks include Google’s logo, the Coca-Cola brand name, and the phrase “Hakuna Matata” from Disney’s the Lion King!


What are the trademark symbols?  What do they mean?

You’ve probably come across a variety of different trademark symbols like the ™, ®, and ℠. Each of these are used in unique ways for trademarks, conveying information on their levels of protection.  These symbols are important to put the world on notice that something is being used as a brand!

The ™ symbol is perhaps the most common of the trademark symbols. The ™ symbol means an individual or business is using the brand as a trademark regardless of whether they have filed a trademark application or not.

The ® symbol can only be used by those trademarks or brands that have received a registration on the trademark with the USPTO.  This means they filed for trademark protection, went through the examination process, and came out the other end and were awarded a trademark registration by the government!

The ℠ trademark is similar to the ™ trademark symbol in that it does not require a registration to use. However, ℠ refers exclusively to services rather than a product or a good.

Author: Jacob Salit.

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