Trademarks are adjectives, not nouns or verbs. The trademark should, therefore, be followed by the generic or common descriptive name of the product. For example, it would be proper to refer to buying a “Bic pen” but improper to refer to buying a “Bic.” It is possible that the use of a trademark as a noun or a verb would cause the mark to eventually lose its distinctiveness and, therefore, its protectability as a trademark. This is particularly true for trademarks applied to new products. The words “escalator,” “aspirin,” “cellophane,” and “shredded wheat” where all trademarks at one time which have lost their distinctiveness. For similar reasons, a trademark should never be used in the possessive form and should not be used in the plural form.
If a trademark is not registered, it is permissible to place the designation TM or SM by the mark. This indicates that your company perceives itself as having trademark rights in that term, although the mark is not registered. When a mark is registered, and only when it is registered, the statutory notice ® should be used. There are other forms of statutory notice that include “Registered in U.S. Patent Office,” or “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.” It is also helpful to print the trademark in lettering or format that stands out from surrounding lettering, whether by size, coloring, or font.
If you have additional questions about trademarks, contact our Michigan trademark attorneys at (616) 975-5500.