Knowing your ‘TM’ vs ®

Have you ever seen a company name, brand or product with a ‘TM’ symbol next to it?  Have you ever wondered what that actually means?

Sometimes you might see a ‘TM’ and sometimes you might see a ®, but what is the difference between TM & ® really?

Firstly you might assume that anything with a ‘TM’ or a ® next to it means that it is a registered Trademark, well it may be, but not necessarily so.

This is a common question asked at my Intellectual Property (IP) workshops and one which often confuses people when looking at company names, brands and products, so let’s start off with what IP Australia, the government IP administrator, says.

“A registered trademark is identified by the ® symbol. Unregistered or pending trademarks may use the TM symbol.”

Expanding on that means having TM next to a name or brand means legally nothing in Australia, but having the ® symbol means that the trademark is registered and fully protected under Intellectual Property  (IP) law, so if you use the ® symbol without the trademark being registered it could mean up to a $50,000 fine and three years in jail.

You can legally place a TM next to your business name, brand, product etcetera at any stage, provided of course you're not infringing on someone else's existing trademark (and believe me it's not good financially if you get caught infringing on someone's trademark).

If you own a registered trademark do you have to use the ® symbol?

The short answer is no you don’t, but it’s a good idea too if you want to warn other people that your trademark is registered and fully protected under Australian law.

I recently saw one company who had a logo done and the graphic artist added the ® symbol (as a bonus) next to the new logo not knowing that doing so was a federal offence under IP Law, this has led to all kinds of issues for the business owner.

In finishing it’s very important to deal with a reputable and knowledgeable creative designer as I’ve seen so many people get caught short when dealing with inexperienced or unknowledgeable design companies.

This article is provided by Geoff Moller
Geoff Moller is a business strategist and IP Professional with clients across Australia and can be contacted on
0411 351 110 or by emailing

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