New Jersey business owners who are interested in trademark registration might not be clear on the differences between different symbols associated with trademarks, and when they are allowed to be used. The two common symbols for trademarks and registered trademarks can mean different things and can be used at different times during the process of trademark registration.
The primary difference between the trademark symbol - TM - and the registered trademark symbol - ® - is that the registered trademark symbol indicates that the mark has been registered, but the trademark symbol can mean only that the owner intends to register the mark. The trademark symbol for products and the service mark symbol for services can be used before or after a product or service is actually registered. By using these marks prior to registration, a business can alert competitors to the fact that it has applied for the brand or logo to become a registered trademark.
The registered trademark symbol can only be used once a trademark is issued. Using this symbol can protect a business from trademark infringement by making it clear that their mark is registered. Using the symbol too early, however, can have consequences. False advertising can be charged if a business owner uses the registered trademark symbol before actually securing registration. Using the symbol too soon could also increase the chance of the registration application being rejected. United States trademark symbols can only be used for products and services in the U.S. Foreign countries have their own trademark laws, and those laws must be followed by U.S. companies that distribute products internationally.
One of the first steps in registering a trademark is conducting a search to determine if the trademark could be too similar to another one that already exists. A thorough search and analysis conducted with the assistance of an attorney could prevent a business from unintentionally infringing on another company's rights or using a mark that may cause confusion with another.