Social Media has allowed content to be easily shared, reaching millions of people at a time. While the spreadability ease—to share and connect—is the main reason why we all use social media, it doesn't come without a caveat. The internet is a market where everything can and will be copied.
Granted, nothing is 100% original; everything that exists is a product that is built upon predecessor knowledge and ideas. However, that doesn't mean we can't try to outline to the best of our ability the fine line between inspiration and theft.
For advice tailored to your specific region, needs and circumstances, it's best to consult with a trademark attorney (i.e. our very own Tilleke & Gibbins). In the mean time, we'll reserve the jargons for the legal professionals and instead, share with you the practical insights in plain language of how and when to use ™ vs ® to your advantage.
At Mäd, we're all for keeping things simple and accessible. This is not the first time we've challenged ourselves to simplify the complicated.
™ - Unregistered Trademark.
® - Registered Trademark.
Despite being unregistered and offering no real legal protection, ™ still has its pros.
The freedom to use the ™ mark even without registration means you can alert others to your ownership or rights to the trademark. This is especially handy for any communication used during the brand launch or brand roll out periods where the registration may still be in progress.
For those who have no intention to register or cannot register (due to the descriptiveness of a word), constant use of ™ can lead your brand to be strongly associated with the word; a leeway that may eventually permit registration. This is precisely what we've done—achieving brand distinctiveness—with our Mäd motto Make it Happen.™
Since no registration is required, it's possible that some use it purely for aesthetic purposes. However, it is not an aesthetic without substance. The ™ mark has a deterrent effect that signals to potential infringers 'don't you dare try', in other words, it's a bonus byproduct.
Reserved for use only for the registered, ® guarantees legal protection. However, it doesn't come without a cost, which is the main thing to consider. Not only can it be a complicated process, but it can also be time consuming and expensive.
However, the reason why companies go through all the effort to trademark their intellectual property, asides from the obvious 'wanting to protect one's intellectual property', is that a registered (hence, legally protected) asset appeals more promising to potential investors, far surpassing the value of an unregistered asset.
Generally, a business will have both a legal name and a trade name. A legal name appears on documents and government forms. A trade name (also known as a brand name, and not to be confused with a trademark) appears on advertisements and signs, but doesn't provide a company with trademark rights therefore offering no legal protection for a particular brand.
M.A.D (Cambodia) Co., Ltd vs. Mäd
The reason for the need of a trade name, in addition to a legal name is that a legal name is more formal, often accompanied by a suffix such as Inc., Co., Ltd, Corp, etc.; which may not be how a brand wishes to present themself. A trade name tends to be more catchy and approachable, making it a more suitable name for branding and marketing purposes.
Gap Inc. vs. Banana Republic, Old Navy
Apple Inc. vs. Apple
Nuances are not to be ignored in any field, but it's especially true in the legal field. Terms and conditions vary depending on your circumstances such as where you are in the world or your business type. To determine what works best for you, a tailored advice from experts is necessary. We hope this article serves as a starting point for further research to help aid in your informed decision making process—whether or not to begin your trademark journey.