Is trademark marking essential?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Trademark marking is a way to give the public notice of your ownership. In formal terms, “marking” refers to the use of commonly recognized or statutorily created designations that identify a word, logo, graphic or slogan as a trademark. This is the letter “R” or “TM” you see after certain words or logos (trademark) on products.

Reasons to Use Trademark Marking

Because a trademark owner’s rights can be infringed on by unauthorized use, it is important to register and give notice of this ownership. Additionally, if a mark is widely used, authorized or not, it is subject to dilution. This means it becomes something of common use and the owner loses his or her right to enforce the mark. Marking helps protect this right and the owner’s right to any potential monetary damages from an infringement lawsuit.

Marking also helps to distinguish the mark from other text or graphics on the associated product. When multiple trademarks appear in advertising or promotional materials, it helps distinguish one from the other. It can also be an ad unto itself, helping the public associate the mark with its owner and the owner’s product or service.

Types of Marks

Some marks that you may be familiar with are “TM” and “SM.” The first describes a trademark, which is usually associated with a product, like Coca Cola. The letters “SM” stand for service mark and are associated with service related businesses, like Roto Rooter. Another widely used trademark mark is the use of the ® symbol, which lets the public know that the mark is registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

Having a trademark registered means it is searchable by other potential registrants looking to make sure their trademarks are not already being used. It is a type of notice and gives the owner additional legal support in the event of a lawsuit. If you think your mark has been infringed, consult an intellectual property lawyer. To learn more about using marks, see the USPTO website

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