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The trademark symbol ® has special meaning in the United States, and can be used ONLY with federally registered trademarks.

The owner of a mark registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may give notice that the mark is registered by displaying with the mark the words “Registered in United States Patent and Trademark Office,” the abbreviation “Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off.,” or the letter R enclosed within a circle, ®. 15 U.S.C. §1111.  One can ONLY use the ® symbol if it is the owner (or licensee) of a mark registered in the USPTO.

The registration symbol should be used only on or in connection with the goods or services that are listed in the registration at the USPTO.

The federal registration symbol ® may not be used with marks that are not actually registered in the USPTO. Even if an application is pending, the registration symbol ® may not be used until the mark is registered.

Also, keep in mind that registration of a mark in a state of the United States does not entitle a person to use the federal registration symbol ®. Du-Dad Lure Co. v. Creme Lure Co., 143 USPQ 358 (TTAB 1964).

Regardless of whether you have a federal trademark registration or not, a party may use terms such as “trademark,” “trademark applied for,” “TM” and “SM”.  These are not official or statutory symbols of federal registration, and may be used by anyone, at any time.  Parties often use TM or SM to give public notice that they consider the mark to be their trademark, even if they do not yet have a federal trademark registration, hoping that others will stay away from using similar marks.

If you have questions or need further information, contact Ross Dannenberg at Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.
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ABA Legal Guide, 2d Ed.

Ross Dannenberg

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