When and how should trademark symbols be used in writing?

Sara Kalinoski  |  May 31, 2012

Once in awhile, I am tasked with creating a newsletter template for a client. When I initially received this task, one question that seemed to pop up often is how to correctly use the trademark, service mark or registered trademark symbols within the body text. Do I use trademark symbols in all writing, or just business writing? Should I use the symbols when I mention a competitor brand, or only for my brand? Do I use the symbols in both the title and the body copy? Rather than relying on a project manager, client legal team or writer to correct this, I wanted to make sure I understood the correct usage.

What type of writing should trademark symbols be used in?

In my previous blog on the difference between TM, SM, and ® symbols, I clarified that a word, name, symbol, or device may be trademarked to distinguish the brand in commerce. Overall, the trademark symbol only needs to be used if you are the trademark holder and want to protect your trademark. This may include any public communication, such as advertising materials or a website.

How do you use it correctly in writing?

A company may have their own style guide that specifies when and where the trademark should be used in writing. Typically the trademark is used in the first instance the word, symbol, image or device is mentioned. This may be in the title, opening paragraph or both. The International Trademark Association states:

Trademarks and service marks should be displayed in a different font or manner to distinguish them from surrounding text. In running text, for example, trademarks are often distinguished by using all capital letters or italics. In addition, the generic noun that identifies the product or service should be used immediately after the trademark name at least once in each separate written or broadcast communication, or on each website, preferably the first time that the trademark appears in the material.

The purpose of using the trademark is to let both your customers and your competitors know that the word, symbol, image or device you are using is yours. Using the trademark symbols beyond the first or second appearance may be distracting to your readers and cause your company to look unprofessional. In the example below, you’ll notice that the first time Sprite was mentioned, it has a ® symbol. The second time Sprite is mentioned, the symbol is not used.

Reference: International Trademark Association

Posted in: Law-Regulations