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How Does the ™ Symbol Work in England?

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The ™ symbol is widely used in England and you may be wanting to learn more on why and how it is used by businesses. You should be careful about how you use the ™ symbol. Additionally, you may also wish to understand the benefits of using the symbol. In this article, we will discuss the importance of the ™ symbol in England and how best to use it in your business.


Trade Marks as Business Tools

Trade marks are extremely popular tools used by businesses in England in order to distinguish their goods or services. They are used as marketing and advertising mechanisms. It can also be used as a way to build a strong brand reputation and recognition. 


What is the TM Symbol?

The TM symbol is used exclusively for unregistered trade marks, which are those that have not been registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Sometimes, businesses do not wish to register their trade mark and as a result use the ™ symbol next to their slogan, slogan or name in order to protect their rights. You will often see the ™ symbol directly beside or beneath a mark. ™ indicates to other businesses and the public that the mark is owned by that business and acts as a warning to others not to use it.

When you register your business, you no longer need to use the™ symbol. Instead, you can use the ® symbol to demonstrate you have registered the mark.


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The Importance of Using the TM Symbol for Unregistered Trade Marks

In contrast to other intellectual property rights such as copyright and design rights, unregistered trade mark rights do not automatically exist upon the creation of the mark. In contrast, unregistered trade mark rights accumulate over a period of time. Likewise, they tend to strengthen as time goes on. Unregistered rights are closely associated with the reputation of your business and the importance of your trade mark within your brand and customer experience.

Unregistered trade marks are therefore more difficult to protect in contrast to their registered counterparts. The process of bringing legal proceedings against another business for infringing your unregistered rights is called passing off. To bring a claim, you must satisfy three conditions:

  • you achieved sufficient goodwill associated with your trade mark;
  • a business misrepresented your unregistered trade mark; and
  • this misrepresentation must have resulted in damage to your business.


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Goodwill and Unregistered Marks

Goodwill is a measure of how closely the public associates your brand with the trade mark in question. The stronger the connection, the stronger the goodwill. An example of a trade mark with substantial goodwill is the Nike Tick (if it was unregistered). This is a symbol widely associated with Nike. The symbol attracts customers to Nike’s goods, enhancing Nike’s reputation in the sportswear market.

Goodwill is therefore something that accumulates over time. This is why it is important to use the ™ symbol from the outset. You must show that you intend to establish a connection between the unregistered trade mark and your brand. If you cannot establish sufficient goodwill, the law is less likely to uphold any proceedings you initiate to protect your unregistered brand.

Sufficient goodwill requires a high threshold. You typically must have a thriving business with a recognised brand. Therefore, practically, registering your trade mark will give you more protection. This is because you do need to establish goodwill with registered trade marks.


The Benefits of Registration

Registration with the IPO has many benefits for businesses. These include:

  1. You can register your trade mark at any point. New businesses can therefore take immediate steps to protect their branding.
  2. Trade mark registration is designed to distinguish your brand from others. This means you obtain complete exclusivity over your registered trade mark immediately.
  3. If anyone attempts to use your mark or a similar mark, you have immediate grounds to challenge them for infringement and do not have to prove goodwill. You can rely on your registration and therefore quicken the process.

There are requirements your trade mark must meet in order to be registered but ultimately, your mark will receive stronger protection and your intellectual property rights will be enforced in a more efficient way. You must pay a fee for registration but it is one of the more cost-saving types of intellectual property protection. A standard application for registration within one class costs £170 and you will receive protection for ten years if successful.


Key Takeaways

The TM symbol is exclusively used for unregistered trade marks in England. It can be used in order to show the public and therefore competitors that you are using the mark as your trade mark. This demonstrates your intent to establish ownership over the marks. It is therefore an effective way of building goodwill among consumers. You must demonstrate sufficient goodwill to enforce any rights over unregistered trademarks. However, the law expects you to demonstrate a high degree of goodwill, which often goes hand-in-hand with more established businesses. It is therefore advisable to register your trade mark from the outset. This will protect your brand from competitors and guarantee exclusivity in your areas of trade for your goods or services.

If you need help or advice around registering your trade mark, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ® symbol?

The ® symbol is used beside registered trade marks which are those that have been registered with the Intellectual Property Office. If your trade mark has not been registered, you cannot use this symbol.

Do I need to Register my Trade Mark?

There is no legal obligation to register your trade mark. However, it is easier to enforce your intellectual property rights if your trade mark has been registered with the Intellectual Property Office.

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Fiona Prior

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