Have You Gone Trademark Symbol Crazy?

Have You Gone Trademark Symbol Crazy?

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN DISTRACTED by the misuse or over-use of a trademark (™) or registered trademark (®) symbol in writing or advertising? Chances are newspaper, magazine, and website editors have been, too.

Below are six reasons your organization should employ a minimalist approach to displaying trademark or registered trademark symbols in its printed marketing collateral as well as its online and social media properties.

1. It’s Not Required

According to the International Trademark Association, it is NOT necessary to use a trademark or registered trademark symbol repeatedly on the same advertisement.

On its blog, the organization writes:

Generally, it is not necessary to mark every occurrence of a trademark in an advertisement or other promotional materials. However, at a minimum, this identification should occur at least once in each piece of printed matter, either the first time the mark is used or with the most prominent use of the mark. When in doubt, err on the side of “over-marking.” Remember that apart from marking, a trademark or service mark should also be properly used (e.g., preferably as an adjective and distinguished from surrounding text by capitalization, distinct typeface, color and/or size).

See #6 on International Trademark Association’s Marketing Requirements page.

2. You May Not Be Eligible to Use Them

If your organization hasn’t actually earned the legal right to display a registered trademark symbol (®), it shouldn’t do so.

Attorney Andrew P. Lahser specializes in helping small business register and enforce trademarks. As he explains on his website article, “How to use the ® and ™ Symbol,” any business wanting to claim a trademark can use the TM symbol. The same is not true, however, of the registered trademark symbol (®).

“Your business can use the ™ symbol whenever it wishes to claim a trademark. You do not need to file any paperwork or receive permission to use the ™ symbol. Use of the ™ symbol can put the competition on notice that the business considers a mark its trademark,” Lahser writes.

He add, however, “The ® symbol may ONLY be used AFTER the US Government grants a Federal registration certificate. The ® symbol may not be used while the Federal application is pending. Additionally, the ® symbol may only be used in connection with the goods and services listed on the registration certificate.

3. You Might Be Using Them Wrong

A trademark is meant to distinguish a product, good, or service from that of a competitor. As such, it can only be used as an adjective, describing a specific noun (and not a related verb).

The International Trademark Association offers a number of different resources on its website for using and displaying trademark and registered trademark symbols. Its “Guide to Proper Trademark Use” (PDF) is a downloadable publication that makes clear the proper use of trademark, service mark, or registered trademark symbols.

4. Editors Are Going to Delete Them Anyway

Most any professional daily newspaper or monthly magazine editor will tell you: excessive trademarks get deleted.

Pete Codella is a public relations consultant. In his blogpost, “Using Trademarks in Public Relations Writing,” he reports the findings of his informal Twitter poll. “My unscientific poll yielded about 80 percent who said you should only include the TM the first time,” he writes.

5. They Make Your Writing Look Promotional

When a piece of writing is littered with trademark symbols, it sends a red flag up in the minds of public readers. It says, “Warning! This content is obviously the product of a business marketing department and should not, therefore, be read without suspicion.”

The leading standard in journalistic writing style, the Associated Press Stylebook, does not use either the trademark (™) or registered trademark (®) symbol. So, if you want your press release to appear legitimate and newsworthy, emulate this popular style.

6. They Could Negatively Affect SEO

Could adding a trademark symbol to the end of keyword negatively affect a webpage’s search engine optimization? Quite possibly, especially in the page title.

W3C recommends page titles remain under 65 characters (including spaces). So, at the very least, trademark symbols take up limited real estate.

Many search engine optimization experts correctly point out that Google and Bing overlook (or, at least, don’t value) trademark symbols in page titles. This means the characters don’t earn you any bonus credibility with search engines.

NOTE: There are times, however, when using the trademark can be beneficial in SEO. This especially true of paid ads in which a trademark conveys a reputable resource or an “official” brand.

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