14 examples to help you understand why and how to use the TM symbol.
If you cannot protect your brand from other people using your name and logo, then investing in a brand at all makes little to no sense. Someone will benefit from all of your brand marketing if they can copy your logo.
The tool we use to protect logos is the legal concept of a trademark. A trademark is a symbol, name, or phrase that only one business has the right to use.
The government recognizes that people would be confused if any business could use any name or logo they wanted to sell something. Branding wouldn’t exist; businesses couldn’t build brand equity, and consumers would not know what to expect when they bought a product.
A trademark can be identified with a TM symbol on the right side of a logo, brand name, or tagline. The symbol is a signal to other businesses that only this business can use the trademark, and there will be legal consequences if it is copied.
We are going to go through some of the basics of the TM symbol and then look at 15 examples of big brands using a TM in their logo.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice nor a substitute for legal advice. Consult a lawyer specializing in intellectual property to fully understand how to protect your logo in your unique situation.
The Basics of the TM Symbol
An understanding of the why, when, and how of the TM symbol will make you a better brand marketer or designer. Let’s learn how it works.
What does the TM on a logo mean?
TM means something is an unregistered trademark.
The TM on a logo means that the logo is a trademark of an organization. Usually, a TM means the logo is an unregistered trademark because a logo with a registered trademark would use the ® symbol.
The TM on a logo may also mean that a phrase (like a tagline) is the trademark of a company, and not necessarily the logo itself.
An example of that is “3M: Science. Applied to Life.™ which you can see below. The TM refers to the tagline, not the 3M logo.
Can I add a TM to my logo?
Yes. You can add a TM to your logo.
If you want to add a TM to your logo, go ahead! No prior action is required.
Anything that you try to trademark should be an original work. Logos from clip art or online logo generators cannot be trademarked. You could ad the TM symbol to such a logo, but it would be meaningless.
The owner of the logo and the designer should both make a good faith effort to see if the logo is infringing on any other organization’s trademark. You can’t steal someone’s logo, slap a TM on it, and call it yours. The trademark will not hold up if it is legally challenged, and the organization could be forced to pay damages.
Note that the TM symbol is not required to legally protect a logo from being copied (in the United States.) Merely doing business under a logo qualifies it as your unregistered trademark.
What is the difference between TM and ®?
Unregistered trademarks use TM. Registered trademarks use ®.
The difference between an ® symbol or the TM symbol is whether the trademark is registered or not. A registered trademark is a logo, brand name, or tagline, which has been added to the government database of trademarks.
In America, that registry is maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In India, the trademark database is controlled by the Controler General of Patents Designs and Trademarks. There are equivalent departments of the governments of countries around the world.
Logos that are unregistered trademarks can only feature the TM symbol or no symbol at all. In fact, it is illegal to display the ® symbol on a logo that is unregistered… so be careful!
Logos that are registered can display the ® symbol, and should wherever possible.
There should be a legal line that mentions the trademark status of the logo. This legal line is especially crucial if the TM or ® cannot be displayed for some practical or aesthetic reason.
Where does a TM need to be placed on a logo?
Upper right is ideal. Anywhere on the right side is acceptable.
“The [TM] should appear […] in the upper right-hand corner of a mark. If it is not practical or aesthetically displeasing to place it there, it should be dropped to the lower right-hand corner of the mark. A symbol should not be placed above, below, or to the left of a mark. Placement is not regulated by law, but adherence to norms is strongly advised.”
Kelley Keller, intellectual property attorney, told Forbes.
Does the TM need to be a certain size?
Only big enough to be readable.
The TM symbol need only be large enough to be legible where it is displayed.
For digital marketing pieces, this means making sure the TM is large enough in terms of pixels, so that is doesn’t appear blurry or unreadable for a regular person.
For print pieces, this means marking sure the TM is large enough to be sharp given the DPI of the piece and readable to the naked eye. Do not make people break out the magnifying glass to see your TM!
Encoding the TM graphic in a vector format will help with readability for both print and web applications. Vector graphics display sharper than raster graphics. The TM should be part of your logo file, which should be a vector format. For web, this means an SVG file. For print, this means an AI, EPS, or PDF file.
Does the TM symbol need to appear with the logo every time?
No. Only the first or largest instance of the trademark should have a TM.
“[I]t is only necessary to use [… the TM] symbol with the first instance of the mark, or with the most prominent placement of the mark.
It is a common misconception that each and every instance of the mark should bear a trademark symbol. Overuse creates visual clutter and may detract from the aesthetic appeal of the piece.
Provided there is at least one conspicuous use of the TM, SM, or ® on the face of the writing, do not be afraid to eliminate superfluous markings.”
Kelley Keller, intellectual property attorney, told Forbes.
Examples Of Logos With TM
Looking at some examples of how large corporations protect their logos will help us understand the TM symbol and how it is used.
The Nintendo Switch logo places the TM on the bottom left corner of the Switch word. Nintendo is a registered trademark; it is the phrase “Nintendo Switch” that the trademark refers to.
The Razer logo has not one, but two TMs in their logo. One is on the bottom right of the tri-snake emblem, and the other is on the top right corner of the Razer wordmark.
The McAfee logo has it’s TM in the standard place: the upper right.
EA Sports has their TM on the upper right of the last word, right where it should be.
F1™ (Formula One)
The F1 logo has the TM in the bottom right.
Intel Core™ i7 10th Gen
The Intel Core i7 Logo has the TM in the upper right of the word “Core” because it is the sub-brand that Intel is seeking to protect.
Note that NVIDIA logo has a registered trademark (®) symbol but the Gameworks has an unregistered trademark symbol (™) in the top right.
The MotoGP logo has the TM in the standard spot: upper right of the word.
Milwaukee MX Fuel™ Equipment System™
The Milwaukee MX Fuel Equipment System has two TMs. One in the bottom left MX Fuel symbol and one after the Equipment System phrase. This is most likely because they are protecting the symbol and the phrase “MX Fuel Equipment System.”
LEGO Education Spike™ Prime
LEGO Education Spike Prime logo has the TM on the top right of the Spike symbol because it is that design that the Lego Corporation is trying to protect. Note that the LEGO symbol features a registered trademark symbol of it’s own.
Fitbit Versa 2™
The Fitbit Versa 2 logo has it’s TM on the bottom right. They have matched the height of the stroke of the two which makes for a clean look.
Grip™ The World’s Grippiest Phone Case.
The GRIP is a sub-brand of DBRAND and they protect their symbol with a TM in the upper right.
ATI™ Radeon™ Graphics
The ATI Radeon logo is another one to have multiple TMs. The first in in the upper right of ATI and the other is in the upper right of Radeon.
3M: Science. Applied to Life.™
3M: Science Applied to Life. logo has the TM at the end of the tag line because that is the phrase that the trademark is protecting.
Savvy brand marketers use ® for their logo and TM symbol for taglines.
I had a hard time finding big, established brands that use the TM symbol. Most use the ® symbol to protect their logos for a good reason.
If you have a strong brand, then your logo is precious. There is brand equity that would be value lost if the logo was not adequately protected. Therefore, logos should be registered trademarks and use the ® symbol, not the TM symbol.
Taglines, on the other hand, are not as permanent and do not have as much value tied up in them. As a brand marketer, you do not want another company to use your tagline, so it is worth protecting. A TM symbol fits this application perfectly.
Check out our article featuring the taglines of the top 100 brands of the world. Those are some taglines worth protecting!