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What is the Difference between the R and TM Icon and their Usage and Rules?

Intellectual property (IP) is used to refer to intangible assets used for industrial purposes, such as inventions, designs, trademarks, trade secrets, copyright, and even confidential information, and these properties can be highly valuable if protected well.

In general, IP rights are established to allow you to protect your design/invention/etc. from being copied or plagiarized. However, IP can be bought and sold, transferred, and licensed in the same way as real, physical property.

IP is designed in order to encourage innovation, creativity, and generate economic growth, and while some types of IP rights arise automatically, others require formal registration. The most common types of trademark symbols are R and TM.

The Difference between TM and R

Both ™ and ® are symbols used in the industry when it comes to brands and marketing. They are very important aspects of IP protection that prevent competitors or anyone from stealing your product, brand, or idea.

However, although you may have seen these two symbols in superscript over different products and brand names, they are actually used for different purposes.

Here are the following symbols (and more) explained in greater detail:

™ – This is the symbol used for claiming ownership over a brand that is not necessarily offered protection by trademark. This brand may be either be unregistered or in the process of being reviewed for a certificate of registration. Usually, the latter happens to be the case. 

Using this symbol next to your brand name allows you to assert your ownership and prevent anyone from using it either by accident or mistake. Once registered, trademarks allow you an absolute right to use your brand to generate profit.  

® – The “registered” symbol denotes a trademark that has already been issued a certificate of registration by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. Having a successfully registered trademark allows you the full rights and access to the mark’s exclusive usage, as well as benefit from its increased market value.

A registered trademark gives you the minimum protection of ten years from the date of application, but unlike patents or copyright, can be renewed indefinitely as long as the brand is being used.

Other Symbols You Need to Know

“Patent Pending” – If you happen to be selling your product while in the process of applying to patent this said product, the phrase “Patent Pending” can be used to assert your claim to ownership of this product.

One the one hand, patents are specifically used for inventions or products that are technical in nature and haven’t been previously seen or used in the market before. They do require you to submit your blueprints to the Intellectual Property Office for verification.

The protection offered by a patent lasts for twenty years starting from the date of issuance of your certificate of registration, which should be enough for you to earn a significant amount of profit from your invention. However, after this time span, your blueprints enter public domain and can be accessed by the general public.

© - On the other hand, this symbol gives notice that the work is protected by copyright, and cannot be owned by the general public.

Copyright mostly extends to works falling into the category of art, whether these works happen to be literary, visual, musical, or performative, but can extend to works that also have a function in the industry sector, such as branding or marketing (characters included), to name a few.

Essentially, what copyright does is to protect the expression of an idea, and allows the owner to take full advantage of this expression in any way

The protection offered by a copyright lasts for up to seventy years after the day of the author’s death before it enters public domain. However, it can be extended

TM is for asserting your claim over a brand that has not yet been registered for trademark, and R is for brands that have been registered and offered protection

While this may already seem simple enough, the process itself can be tedious, which is why a lot of businesses don’t opt for trademark registration. However, having a trademarking company that specializes in registering your brand/s for you is a great way for you to apply hassle-free. The best part is that most branding companies are willing to do it for a reasonable price.