What is the difference between a registered trademark and a trademark?

A registered trademark is one in which the owner has filed registration papers (and fees, samples, declarations, etc) with a state or federal agency, stating who owns the brand, what the brand is used for, and when it was first used for that. This permits others with ideas for similar brands or products to quickly find out who is already using what. If a trademark has a federal registration then you may see the optional circle-R mark on it "�". If it is a state registration, you will not see that �, but may see TM or sm (service mark) on the product or advertising.

A trademark owner who has not registered it may have a valid right to prevent others from using the trademark, but will have a more difficult time of proving ownership and that the others are violating his exclusive rights.


A trademark or trade mark is a distinctive sign of some kind which is used by a business to uniquely identify its products and services to consumers, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other businesses. A trademark is a type of industrial property which is distinct from other forms of intellectual property. You may not copy a trademark onto your own similar products, whether or not the trademark is registered.

Conventionally, a trademark comprises a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. There is also a range of non-conventional trademarks comprising marks which do not fall into these standard categories, including distinctive colors and sounds. A similar notion of "trade dress" may apply to an entire operation, such as a golf-course layout, or the style of a restaurant chain.

The term trademark is also used informally to refer to any distinguishing attribute by which an individual is readily identified, particularly the well known characteristics of celebrities. Such trademarks can be a style of haircut (Elvis Presley's distinctive ducktail), articles of clothing or accessories (Liberace's flamboyant costumes and jewelry or Elton John's oversize sunglasses), facial hair (Groucho Marx's mustache), or even breast size (Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson).