Necessity of ® and ™ symbols?
January 23, 2008 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it necessary to include ® or ™ symbols on every instance of a logo or brand name?

Does it make it harder to enforce your mark without them, even if the mark is legally registered?

How come some companies omit them? Case in point, Apple and Nike. They both have highly valued brands but rarely do you see the legal bugs next to the Apple logo or Nike swoosh. How do they get away with not including them?

I'm a graphic designer at a very IP-centered company. In addition to how our logo is presented, our website copy is littered with these little symbols and I find it cumbersome to read. I'm trying to make the case that they aren't necessary. Am I wrong?
posted by andreux to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Usually copyright/ trademark info needs to appear on the first instance of the name/ logo/ whatever on a "page" to indicate you're defending your rights. Go without the markings on everything for a little bit and you'd lose the ability to call the mark your own.
posted by yerfatma at 2:39 PM on January 23, 2008

You're right that Apple and some other companies keep the IP-warning cruft to a minimum. Typically, however, you'll find a "trademark notice" tucked away in every piece of literature they produce; the Apple website, for example, has an entire directory relating to its trademarks. For that matter, I've seen documents with both the "trademark notice" and the ™s and ®s littering them.

As a designer, it's good that you should advance this argument, but you should have lunch with someone from Legal to get their perspective.
posted by adamrice at 2:49 PM on January 23, 2008

The general rule for packaging is that the first instance on a panel needs to have the legal mark -- subsequent uses are covered by first instances but, as house style, some companies prefer to use the legal mark on every instance. (And some companies just can't decide or have Wizard of Oz flying monkeys for legal teams.)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:28 PM on January 23, 2008

IANAL, but the old rule I learned (back when we did layout with wax pasteups) was "once per page/once per panel". When I translate that rule to web design, I figure once per [current design standard monitor] vertical. So, since I currently design for a 1024 tall monitor, I make sure the ® appears about once every 900 vertical pixels. Usually this is for very IP concerned orgs (lawyers everywhere!) so...

In the case of a logo, I make the mark as teeny tiny as possible and put somewhere on the page "The phrase gobeldygook® and the gobeldygook logo are registered trademakes of the gobeldygook corporation" or so0me such muck. Seems to keep the lawyers in their offices.
posted by foxydot at 8:36 PM on January 23, 2008

I once worked for a company that had the lawyers pepper every instance of a trademark with some sort of symbol, warning, or other annoying device, and I looked into it, just like you are. (I think the lawyers were so diligent about this because it was a way for them to keep their jobs!)

In reality, if you own the trademark, you own the trademark. You don't need to show a symbol. Having a trademark symbol won't affect your standing if it comes down to a legal battle. On a logo, I suppose it's easy to simply have a small R or TM mark. In text, though, it's quite annoying. If the lawyers are very insistent, you may be able to have them include a blanket statement at the bottom of the page (or end of the document) indicating that x, y, and z are registered trademarks and property of your company.

If it's someone else's trademark, you don't have a need to protect it, so why place a symbol there? You might get a letter from that company to cease and desist using their mark, but it's fairly unlikely if you're doing low-profile stuff.

But if your lawyers (and IANAL) are really looking for something to keep them busy, you might not win the fight.
posted by scottso17 at 10:56 AM on January 24, 2008

As best I can recall (don't have my Associated Press Stylebook at home), AP style -- which most of the legitimate, respected, reliable newspapers rely on -- says you need use the trademark only on first reference. Once you have referred to RottenToTheCore® or XMyBad™, presumably it's imprinted on the reader's brain that he/she is looking at a registered, trademarked name and can't use it in vain. Or whatever. But correct me if I'm wrong, AP Stylebook readers.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 1:24 PM on January 26, 2008

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