Trademark symbols: ™, © and ®
Clients often ask me about trademark symbols, what they mean and when they can use them. It can seem confusing, but it’s quite simple really:
™ is American. It means nothing legally in the UK, but people sometimes use it as a visual deterrent.
© is for copyright. It is not a trademark symbol. The law automatically protects original artworks such as logos, graphics, paintings and photography. This means the person who created it, owns the copyright by default. It is illegal to copy, reproduce or sell a work without the owner’s permission. The owner can however, assign the copyright to a third party or enter into an agreement or contract that means they have given someone else the right to use it.
So for example, if you have taken a photo yourself, you have the right to use this symbol alongside it.
The only time this is different is in the case of an employee. The company owns the copyright to any material produced by their employees, and not the individual who created it.
® is the symbol for a Registered Trademark. It’s illegal to use this symbol unless you have registered your logo with the Intellectual Properties Office and it has been granted. There is a process you must follow for registration and simply applying for it does not mean it will be granted.
So, what is registering all about?
You can register a trademark, but that doesn’t mean you own the copyright. For instance we have clients who have registered a logo we designed for them, but we still own the copyright. Technically, they are only using it with our permission, so they can’t sell it on.
So, what’s the advantage in registering? Well, in a nutshell, it prevents anyone else in the same industry, doing the same activity as you with the same (or similar) logo.
It also gives your company more gravitas if the logo bears an ® trademark symbol. Lets face it, it shows you have something worth registering. Take a look at this logo, the registered trademark symbol automatically adds weight to the brand and makes the company look big and established.
The law gives limited protection to an unregistered logo. But if you’ve registered it then it’s easier to stop other people using it. For instance if someone on social media uses your logo, or any part of it without your permission, you can follow it up yourself rather than having to go back to your designer to ask them to enforce the infringement. Your designer might charge you for their time and any legal fees they incur.
It’s easy to register, you can do it yourself here and it can cost just £170 to do online. I would always recommend however that you seek legal advice first – don’t take my word for it. I know a great IP lawyer though, if you want one.