We are sometimes asked about trademarks or asked to put ™ or ® next to a brand identity. But what are these two symbols and what do they really mean?

A trademark is a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design or image, or a combination of these elements that make up your identity.

Putting ™ next to your identity just means that you consider it a trademark and claim ownership of it. Many brands don’t bother to do this. It doesn’t offer you any protection, but it can make you feel more official. You are automatically covered by copyright as soon as you make an original piece of work. The issue is proving it in a court of law if your brand is infringed.

® is the registered mark. You can ONLY use this if your identity is registered. You can do this yourself or through a company that will handle it for you. It offers you more protection than just copyright and lasts 10 years (in the UK).

Brands such as Mercedes, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Oxfam, Tesla, and Google don’t put ™ or ® next to their brand identities.

Coca-Cola, (RED), The Body Shop and Fairtrade put the ® mark next to their brand identity.

Starbucks puts ® and ™ on pretty much everything including their name in text. Their wordmark has the ® mark, the symbol with the mermaid symbol has ™. This sends out a message that they are very corporate and protect their brand vigorously.

So it’s really up to you. Common sense prevails. The stronger your identity, the less important registration is. If your identity is simple type with little exposure and looks less like a logo, then it may be worth considering adding ™ or getting it registered. The Body Shop is a pretty generic name and therefore has a strong care for registering.(RED) is so simple and often doesn’t really look like a logo when in context, that the ® makes sense.

HOW TO REGISTER YOUR TRADEMARK IN THE UK

HOW TO REGISTER YOUR TRADEMARK IN THE USA

HOW TO REGISTER YOUR TRADEMARK IN THE EU