Identifying Your Intellectual Property

Most people are familiar with the ® and TM symbols. However, many people do not understand precisely what they mean. The ® symbol means that the trademark is federally registered. You cannot use this symbol unless your trademark is federally registered. The TM symbol simply indicates common law trademark rights in the mark. You do not need to have any official registration to use this symbol. Anyone who has a trademark can use it to put the public on notice that trademark rights are claimed. Although there are significant advantages to federal registration, one can gain substantial copyright protection through common law copyright. Generally speaking, trademark rights are obtained by simply using a trademark in association with goods or services. For example, a hardware store may have a logo or trademark that it uses to represent its products and stores. This hardware store does not need to file for a federal registration to claim a trademark in its logo or mark. The act of using the mark in association with its business and products is sufficient. However, it is important for the owner of the mark to indicate to the public that he claims trademark rights in the mark or logo. Doing this is easy. All that needs to be done is to use the TM symbol next to the mark or logo wherever it is used. This puts the world on notice of your claim to common law trademark rights and can provide you with the upper-hand should you ever have to enforce your rights in a legal action. Most states offer state registration of trademarks. Although this does not offer the same level of protection or advantages of a federal registration it is another cost effective method to consider for protection of your IP.

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