You business has a brand, or several of them. You may or may not have registered brand names, slogans, and logos. Regardles, following a few easy guidelines about proper usage of trademarks can add value to the brand (by reinforcing to your customers that you have a vaulable and protected brand) and improve your legal protections. Here are a few quick tips on proper use of a trademark:
- Do not use it as a verb. Despite the wishes of Microsoft’s CEO (see here), genericizing a trademark diminishes its value and may harm its legal protections. You do Xerox(R) papers, you make a copies using a Xerox(R) device. Linoleum and Asprin used to be registered trademarks, but became generic names. While it may be flattering when others refer to your brand as the entire category of a product or service, be vigilant in policing such use and educating your customers, vendors, and partners about how to properly use your trademarks. Wiki list of now generic trademarks and somein jeopardy of becoming generic avaialble here.
- Make it stand out. Make sure everyone knows that you are using a trademark – put your brand names and slogans in bold type, italics, different font, or otherwise make them stand apart from the rest of the copy on your website and materials. This reinforces that the highlighted text is special, is your brand, and has value. And it helps add to your protection by showing the public that just any wording, but protected trademark wording.
- Use the correct symbols! The circle-R is for federally registered trademarks. (TIP: on a full keyboard you can generate the symbol by holding down “ALT” button and hitting 1,7,4 on the number pad.) Technically, the circle-R should only be used for goods or services which a USPTO registration covers. If a registration covers tires, but the brand name is also used on headlights, the packaging for the headlights should not use the symbol (and perhaps a new registration should be obtained to cover headlights).
Anyone who claims rights in a mark may use the TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) symbols, regardless of whether they have filed an application with the USPTO. This claim may not be valid, but asserts that the owner is claiming or seeking some trademark protection in the word, logo, or slogan.
TM – used in connection with physical goods (computers, coffee beans, eyeglasses, etc.)
SM – used in connection with the provision of services (website, consulting, store services, real estate agent, etc.)
Where to use symbols? Generally the proper symbol should be used on the upper right ‘shoulder’ of the relevant text. For a logo, placement on the upper right or lower right corner is generally accpeted use.
When to use the sybmols? Use them often. You need not use them everytime your trademarks are used, but you should use them frequently. Especially on the most visable uses of your trademarks — letterhead, front splash of website, business cards, etc.
Establish a strong and unique brand, protect your trademarks, use them properly, and watch their value grow!
Bonus tip: Set a free Google(R) alert and monitor how others are using your trademarks. http://www.google.com/alerts