What does adding the TM and R symbols next to trademarks mean?

Author: Boyana Boyadzhieva

In practice, we often notice trademarks that are marked with one of two symbols – ™ or ®. Both symbols are associated with the protection of intellectual property and the commercial image of an enterprise. However, these symbols have different meanings and their use can lead to different consequences.

What is the meaning of the ™ symbol?

The ™ symbol is an abbreviation of “Trade Mark” from English and is usually found in the upper or lower right corner of a trademark (company logo, product or service name, or other designation) that a company uses to distinguish its products or services in the marketplace from those of others.

The use of this symbol is more widespread in countries with an Anglo-Saxon legal system, such as the USA and Australia, whereas in most European countries, including Bulgaria, the symbol does not carry much legal weight.

The symbol is most often used for unregistered trademarks. By using this symbol, the owner of the unregistered trademark is claiming that it uses the sign as a trademark, applies it to its products, or uses it to designate its services and believes it has rights to it.

The ™ symbol does not protect the owner of the unregistered trademark from liability for infringing another’s trademark right. For example, if the unregistered trademark is similar or identical to an earlier registered trademark, the ™ symbol will not confer a defense on the infringer against the registered trademark owner’s legal actions. Therefore, it is advisable for the owner of the unregistered mark to investigate whether the sign it intends to use infringes the rights of another entity before using it as an identifier of its goods and services.

This does not mean that unregistered marks cannot be protected. If the proprietor of an unregistered trademark uses the mark to identify his goods and services and another person copies the mark to use on his goods and services, this may constitute an act of unfair competition. However, what will be relevant here is how long and how the unregistered mark has been used, not whether the ™ symbol has been added to it.

What is the meaning of the ® symbol?

The ® symbol, on the other hand, is derived from the English word “Registered” and, as in the case of the ™ symbol, is most often placed in the upper or lower right corner of a trademark.

The use of this symbol indicates that the sign is registered as a trademark. The registration of a trademark provides its owner with exclusive rights to the trademark in question and third parties are not allowed to use signs similar or identical to that trademark for similar or identical goods and services. This rule applies only to the territories in which the trademark registration is valid. Unlike an unregistered trademark, which has no term of validity, the protection of a registered trademark lasts for 10 years, after which the registration must be renewed, and renewal may be made an unlimited number of times. Otherwise, the mark may be removed from the register of the relevant patent office and become available to use by others.

It is important to note that the rules for the use of the ® symbol vary depending on the legislation of each country. For example, under Polish and German law, the use of the ® symbol for marks that are not registered can lead to legal consequences and fines. In Mexico, Chile, Peru, or the Philippines, any owner who fails to include the ® symbol on the packaging or labeling of its goods loses its trademark rights.

In Bulgaria, there is no legal provision obliging or prohibiting the use of the ® symbol for registered trademarks. Article 19 of the Trademarks and Geographical Indications Act, is the only provision where the Bulgarian legislator mentions the symbol, indicating that it may be used by the trademark owner to indicate that the trademark is registered. This means that the trademark registration will remain valid irrespective of whether the ® symbol is used or not.

As a result, any trademark proprietor who trades using their trademark internationally should carefully consider the correct display of the ™ or ® symbols to ensure that their trademark is effective and avoids negative consequences for their business. It is advisable to register the trademark for each country in which the company intends to operate. Registering a trademark can be a complex process that requires professional assistance. In order for a trademark to be registered, certain criteria must be met and all necessary documentation must be completed. Therefore, if you plan to register your trademark, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney or intellectual property specialist.

This material prepared by Boyana Boyadzhieva aims to provide more information about the differences between the symbols TM and R placed next to trademarks. It does not constitute a legal opinion and cannot be interpreted as individual consultation on any concrete facts or circumstances. The advice of an intellectual property specialist should be obtained for specific questions and situations. For more information on the above-mentioned issues and individual consultations, please contact KrasimiraKadieva law office at 00359 882 308 670 or make an inquiry using the contact form on this website. Boyana Boyadjieva is a legal associate at the law firm. She holds a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law from the Queen Mary University of London. Prior to joining the team of the law firm, Boyana interned at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Her professional interests are related to intellectual property, data protection, e-commerce, and contract law, and regularly attends conferences, practical courses, seminars, and webinars in these areas of law. She is fluent in English.

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