Post No. 37

What’s the difference between TM, SM and ®?

You’ve probably seen the ™, ℠ and ® symbols before, but you may be wondering what they mean and how they’re different. If you own a business or plan to own one in the future, it’s important to understand these symbols. We thought we’d take a few minutes to explain the differences in a way that isn’t overwhelming.

First, what do the different symbols stand for?

™: Trademark
℠: Service mark
®: Federally registered trademark (or service mark)

The TM and SM are used for marks that are not registered federally, also called unregistered trademarks. They are also used for marks that are registered at the state level.

Next, why are the different symbols used? All of these symbols may help protect brand names, specifically any word, name, symbol, device or a combination of those things. So for your business, that may be your company name, tagline, logo, or even a clever product or service name you want to protect. The symbols help protect your mark because they provide notice to other companies that you own (or believe you own) the right to your mark and do not want your mark to be damaged or infringed upon.

™: The trademark symbol is used in connection with goods and products, such as foods, vehicles, computers and more. For a detailed list of goods, check out classes 1-34 on this trademarks list.

℠: The service mark symbol is used in connection with services, such as advertising, education and entertainment. For a more detailed list of services, check out classes 35-45 on this list of service marks.

®: The registered trademark symbol is used in place of the trademark or service mark symbol when the mark is federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

If you want to register a mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you can go to This federal registration provides the most protection for your business name. We recommend consulting with an attorney to make the best and most informed decision for your business. This is especially important because use of the different symbols provides different rights and remedies.

Now that you understand the ®, ™ and ℠ symbols a little more, it’s time to make sure that your own business is utilizing the correct one. For additional information, read through this in-depth slidedeck from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.