Popularly used Trademark Symbols like TM, SM, R, and C indicate the level of protection Trademarks enjoy in India. This blog provides a comprehensive understanding of the meaning behind these symbols and offers guidance on the appropriate usage of these symbols in relation to your products.
You must be aware about the advantage of a Trademark in building and enhancing your brand’s image in the market, but how exactly can you leverage this advantage? Well, there are certain symbols you can use on your Trademark for this purpose. These include the symbols TM, R, SM and C. Let’s interpret what they stand for.
™, ® and © are trademark symbols indicating that the intellectual property is registered by its owner or creator and that they have full-pledged rights to file a complaint to the court if an infringer has illegally used the intellectual property in their name. Moreover, the use of these symbols – ™, ®, and © frequently pick the interest of common people, who wonder why most firms or artists have these symbols imposed on their creative works, device works, business names, brand names, logos and so on.
People who own a product are keen to understand how trademarks work. The term trademark, as defined in Section 2 (zb) of the Trademarks Act 1999, is a graphically represented mark of identity which determines the original source of goods or services. It is not the product itself, but its symbol of identification.
For instance, consider the product TIDE Laundry Detergent. The name identifies TIDE as the manufacturer or source of the product. So the name itself becomes a Trademark. The way trademarks are often used might be confusing for people as they may be mistaken for the product itself. But that is not the purpose of a Trademark. Instead, they are meant to detect the source of the product.
Did you know that the “Apple Stores” was actually trademarked before its launch was actually announced? This helped prevent competitors from taking that name for similar stores of their brands. How excellent is this approach to keep track of what your business rivals are up to and counter their moves in time?
All trademarks do not have the same impact in the market. Some trademarks are more powerful than the others. The power of a Trademark is defined by its so-called “spectrum of distinctiveness”, that is how uniquely yet aptly it represents its origin brand. From general, to descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary, and fanciful marks, let’s discuss the different types of Trademarks and the degree of impact they create in creating a recognition for their brands.
Generic Mark: Generic mark is considered the weakest Trademark as it is not very capable of uniquely representing its brand. In most circumstances, it is just a common term that everyone uses for a certain product or service sold in the market or a term used in common trade practice. One cannot register a generic trademark because if it is allowed, a person may own the monopoly over a generic term which is in common use and that may cause huge chaos and confusion in the general public. Some trademarks begin as non-generic but gain so much popularity over time that they become generic in terms of public use.
Descriptive Mark: These marks have a slightly greater impact than generic marks. Trademarks in this category are not exactly generic, however, they do utilize terms that have no purpose other than to clearly define a feature or characteristic of the goods or services they are used for. Descriptive Trademarks are not desirable as Trademarks must illustrate a brand’s uniqueness, and not simply define a product or service with certain attributes. Brands with non-descriptive trademarks, such as KFC, American Airlines, Whirlpool, Louis Vuitton, and Pepsi, have a large market reach, allowing them to become acceptable trademarks for their owners.
Suggestive Mark: Their impacts are higher than the impacts of generic and descriptive marks combined. Like a Descriptive mark, they too allude to the attributes and characteristics of the goods and services but in a more subtle manner. For instance, consider the Trademark Photoshop. The mark sounds unique but also highlights the service it is used for.
Arbitrary Mark: Arbitrary marks are Trademarks used to represent goods and services which they have absolutely no connection with. For instance we have ‘Apple’ which literally means a fruit and ‘Adobe’ which literally means construction material, but both of them are used to represent IT products. Arbitrary Trademarks are regarded as inherently strong marks since they are unique and have nothing to do with the goods or services they are made to cover.
Fanciful Mark: Last but not least, these marks are defined coin terms or invented terms that have no meaning or significance other than to designate certain products or services. For example, KODAK implies nothing other than a photography brand, or, Twitter means nothing other than the name of a social media platform. We have more examples to help you understand. Walmart, Pepsi, Marlboro, Audi, and Ikea are all pretty great instances of fanciful marks in use.
So, we have discussed five different types of Trademarks and their degree of impact while in use. You can choose any of these types based on the needs of your brand.
Trademarks are representative marks used by businesses for the identification of their products and services in the market. There are several such identifiers, common ones being brand names, logos, and slogans. The most popular among these are brand names. Trademarks are meant to prevent confusion and misunderstanding among consumers while distinguishing the products of one brand from another.
There are a lot of misconceptions about various trademark symbols though. Common questions include what trademark symbols represent, how one can use them and whether one needs to file an application to acquire them . Let’s attempt to answer these questions in our further explanations.
After successfully filing a trademark application with Trademark Registry in India, the owner of the trademark can use this symbol next to their Trademarks. It serves as a protection for the company against infringement as it indicates that the Trademark is in progress or is about to be registered. The symbol appears as superscript, ™ beside texts, photos, or other material that claim to be originated from the Trademark Owner. However, the thing you must keep in mind is that the Trademark is not yet registered. Businesses occasionally use ™ to indicate that they are the first users of the mark and that registration for the mark has been sought by them.
The R symbol signifies that the trademark is registered successfully with the Indian Trademarks Registry. After registering a trademark, the owner has the exclusive right to use it to represent its goods and services. Without the trademark owner’s authorisation, no one else can use the mark. As a consequence, the ® symbol informs others that the exclusive ownership of the trademark has been granted to someone and that it can no longer be infringed. This symbol can be used until the Trademark registration is valid, that is for ten years from the date of application. If the validity has expired, the symbol can be used again after successful renewal of the Trademark.
The SM symbol is used to symbolize services provided by a person or organization rather than goods. It is completely inappropriate to utilize the ™ symbols if a business owner provides services and not products. Generally, a business owner can only use the SM symbol when providing services to potential clients. The SM symbol, like the ™ symbol, can be used with unregistered trademarks with no legal backing and protection against infringement.
The first step in trademark registration is to create a unique trademark for a venture or product. It might take up a lot of time to choose a unique trademark. However, if a trademark is identical to that of other existing trademarks, chances are that the application will be rejected, and the concerned applicant will have to create a new trademark or modify the existing one. To avoid this, conducting a thorough research on existing trademarks is extremely necessary. Many individuals strive to utilize unique names that showcase the product or service as their trademark, regardless of whether it is similar to existing marks or not. Nevertheless, such attempts could never prevent future legal ramifications that one might face due to infringement issues.
The TM and ® symbols can be used as visual elements with the trademark, whether it is represented as a word or as a graphical design. The symbol is typically placed in the top right or bottom right corners, however there is no standardized position prescribed for its appearance. So, businesses might not always follow this regulation. There is a significant distinction between the ™ and ® symbols. Trademarks can be registered or unregistered, however registration is crucial for the business’s unique recognition in the market. Once you have completed the trademark registration process in India, there are no restrictions on where you can display the ® sign with your Trademark. ™ sign, however, can be used even when your registration is pending and your application has been filed.