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What is the Difference Between Copyright, Trademark, and Registered Trademark?

copyright, trademark, and registered trademark

There’s always been a lot of confusion surrounding different symbols attached to a logo or brand symbol. Take a look at any logo and you’re likely to see a ™ ℠ or a ®. And what about © or patent pending? What are they and what’s their purpose? These marks don’t inherently explain themselves upon first sight. And each serves a different purpose. In this post, I will explain the difference between a copyright symbol, a trademark symbol, and a registered symbol.

Copyright Symbol ©

A copyright symbol lets the reader know that the information (other than sound) has been published by the author and can not be repurposed without the author’s consent. Copyrights are always in the same order: The copyright symbol ©, the year of publication, and the name of the copyright owner.

The Trademark Symbol™

The trademark symbol is used to denote a brand name is used for an unregistered trademark classified as a product. The mark allows the person or business to identify that a certain word/symbol is to be associated only with the person or company. The TM allows it to be considered an integral part of their brand. Some entities use this symbol during the application process of making the symbol a registered trademark.

The Service Mark℠

The service mark symbol is used in the same manner as the trademark above, except it is used to denote a service instead of a product.

Registered Trademark®

A registered trademark is a symbol that informs the viewer the word or symbol attached is registered with the national trademark office. It is a Trademark that has been “registered” in the country.

BONUS: Patent Pending

Patent pending is a phrase used to show that the individual or company has filed for a patent but can not guarantee the approval of the application.


Intellectual property and protecting your brand is integral to a company’s livelihood. Trademarks, Service marks, registered trademarks, copyrights, and patents each have a specific purpose and are essential to a brand’s future. When in doubt note that trademarks (™, ℠, ®) protect brand names and logos while copyrights (©) protect literary works.

If you want to take the next step in taking your business to the next level with a protected logo go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office online. Here you can find all the pertinent information regarding your specific use case.

If you are interested in learning more about the technical side of graphic design check out my post on the Definitions of Graphic Design or the 5 Business Skills Graphic Designers Need to Master. Each builds upon the content covered in this post and give you a more solid base for your career.