Trademark (™) vs. Registration (®)

Next to most logos or brand names, you can find either a ™ or a ®

Trademark vs RegisteredWhat do those symbols mean and what is the difference between a trademark and registration mark?

The ™ can mean a number of things. It can mean a federal trademark application has been filed and is pending. It can mean that a state application has been filed and has been granted or is pending. Or it can just mean that no trademark application has been filed either at the federal or state level, but this mark is being used to distinguish goods. In that case, the owner of the mark has common law rights even though the mark has not been registered.

The ®, on the other hand, is only used for marks that have been granted federal registration. This means that the mark has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the application has been granted.

Anyone using a mark to distinguish his/her goods from other goods can put a ™ next to the mark, although there are certain reasons why one would want to register their mark either at the state level or federal level.

In order to obtain federal registration of a mark, the mark must be used in conjunction with goods in interstate commerce, or more than one state.

One benefit of federal registration is that you have exclusive nationwide ownership of the mark. Additionally, after five years of continuous use from the date of registration, the rights to the mark become incontestable. However, having a state trademark or just using the mark in one’s geographic region but never registering it, actually gives the owner some rights over potential federal registrations.

For instance, if you are using your mark in the Albuquerque area but have never registered it, somebody else could potentially obtain the federal registration for the mark. This indicates that that person has complied with all requirements and obtained federal registration status. However, you, being the common law owner of a mark by using it in a geographic region before the federal registration by the other applicant, actually have rights in that specific geographic region. Thus, the owner of the federally registered mark cannot undercut you in the Albuquerque region. However, the owner could possibly go into the Las Cruces area or even the Santa Fe area if you have not used the mark in those areas before the federal registration was obtained. Therefore, you are potentially protected without ever registering your mark, but by registering your mark, you will obtain the most complete protection.

If you are using a mark in more than one state, you should obtain federal status. If you never plan to expand outside the state, obtaining New Mexico protection for your mark may make the best business sense, as it will cover you everywhere in the state, not just in the locality where you are using it.

To determine whether federal registration or state registration for your trademark will work best for you, contact an Albuquerque trademark attorney.


Albuquerque Business Law, P.C.
1803 Rio Grande Boulevard Northwest AlbuquerqueNM87104 USA 
 • 505-246-2880

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About Kameron W. Kramer

Kameron W. Kramer is licensed to practice law in New Mexico, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a registered Patent Attorney. Kameron has technical expertise gained from his work as an engineer in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. His legal focus is on intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Kameron combines this technical and legal expertise to assist his clients in the starting, planning, and development of start-ups and established companies.

  • Jason Rogers

    Awesome post Kameron. I always wondered what the difference was between those two symbols. Thanks for clarifying!