Using Copyright and Trade Mark Symbols On These Boards.

By which I mean ©, ™ and sometimes ®.

Is there any hard and fast rules when to use them, and when not? Especially on a message board, like this?

It seems maybe you shouldn’t, because if I am not mistaken, it means you got the copyright holder’s permission to use the word or material. And usually that is simply not the case.

By the way, FWIW, I do know you can use brief excerpts of copyrighted material, esp. in certain context. As I said before on these boards, that is governed by what is called the Fair Use Doctrine, which basically says, consumers of copyrighted material have certain rights too.

This right was first recognized by the Supreme Court, back when they still cared about the common man (sorry to emote, but it’s true:)). From what I understand, now it is largely a statutory matter.

But back to my original point, is it okay? I may have done it once or twice (I am not sure, because I forget). So if I did, am I in big trouble now? (As I said, perhaps I didn’t. I honestly don’t recall.) Because, I have to tell you, to-date I have never gotten a copyright holders permission. Have you?


Having just applied for a Canadian Trademark, I was reading the rules. Essentially you want to point out that you have a trademark, but you don’t have to do it with each occurrence. You also don’t use it on trademarks owned by others. For example, if I sell a Widget that fits on Ford and GM cars, I only TM “Widget” in my sales material and only with the first or most prominent usage.

I understand US rules are similar but not identical.

If you used specific model names in your sales material, like Mustang or Malibu, you would probably use a small disclaimer at the bottom, something like this (not exact wording):

“Mustang” and “Malibu” are trademarked by Ford Motor Company and General Motors respectively.

They are used by the owner of rights to give notice of a claim of rights. When used by anyone else they have no legal meaning.

You are mistaken. As I said above, the signs have no legal significance when they are used by anyone other than the owner of the rights.

So long as you are making a nominative fair use of a trademark (that, is, you are using the trademark truthfully to identify the trademark owner’s own goods), you are not required to do any of this.

However if you a business partner of the trademark owner, such as a licensed distributor, your licensing contract might require it, because the trademark owner wants to make it clear to the public who is claiming trademark rights.

This takes me back to when AT&T was picky about their trademark on “Unix”. They kept sending out letters to anyone who published a paper referring to Unix complaining that the author didn’t throw in the TM symbol and remark that it was a trademark of AT&T.

People got really sick of this and started being “playful” in their references to Unix.

But this was just AT&T’s lawyers trying to prevent the genericization of Unix.

You can ignore such matters as long as you’re aren’t inappropriately using the trademark such as using it to refer to something else and so on.

So you can post all you want about Coca Cola and not worry about it. Well, don’t say it’s made from rat brains or anything.

The copyright symbol along with the owner’s name used to mean something. For the creator of the writing, film, whatever, it meant you were asserting a copyright claim on it. Leaving it out in the old days, even accidentally meant it would enter the public domain.

With everything today being “born copyrighted” it is only needed in those situations where indicating the copyright owner in a formal manner is needed. In terms of re-printing say an article it tells the reader who owns the original copyright.

But it’s not needed in the board situation where your original posts are copyrighted to you and anything you quote is sufficiently small (I hope) that the citation/link you give for the quote provides enough info.

Whether people used the trademark symbol is not and never has been a factor in genericizarion. I suspect they were getting overly cautious advice.

You can use a trademark as inappropriately as you want so long as you aren’t doing something actionable under the law, such as infringement, dilution, false advertising, trade defamation, etc.

If you aren’t actually selling something posted with the trademark on it as a brand name, you’re almost never going to be doing something illegal.

If you sell a dashboard ornament and say that it works with all models of Chevrolet cars, you’re in the clear, no matter how you phrase it, what symbols you use, or even if it doesn’t work with Chevy cars (well, that last might get you false advertising problems, but not trademark problems). But if you build your own car and say that it’s a Chevy, now you have problems.

We are a Microsoft partner and are explicitly told not to refer to anything Microsoft owned with a trademark, not even the disclaimer about being a trademark or Microsoft.

Thats up to them to decide when drafting their contracts.

It’s the act of sending out the letters that proves that a company is actively defending it’s trademark.

It’s the act of sending out letters objecting to generic uses that matter in preventing genericization. Letters sent objecting to uses that have nothing to do with generic uses have no effect whatsoever.

For example, a letter saying “We prefer you refer to our goods as Lego toy blocks rather than as ‘Legos’ and refrain from using the Lego name in reference to blocks not made by our company” addresses issues relating to genericness.

Sending a letter saying “Please spell LEGO in all capitals and include a Circle-R symbol to indicate that it is a registered trademark” has no legal benefit because those things aren’t related to generic uses.

However, a company’s counsel might have included such a line out of an excess of caution, the same way that movies include a “all persons depicted are fictional” disclaimer or avoid using or showing real brand names without a deal with the brand owner.

I don’t have my copy of the ACS style guide but I recall it saying not to use such symbols. One guy I worked for was convinced you were supposed to but I always edited it out of anything I published with him.

I have a Trademark and Copyright symbol on my signature.

The problems is. . . I never use my signature.

The Voices charge me royalties per use.

I was just reading about this topic and now I just checked ATMB and here it is!


The TM and C symbols don’t really mean much. But using the registered trademark symbol on a product (or advertising for a product) you know damn well isn’t registered can be straight-up fraud, and you might wind up in serious hot water.

Using any of them for random postings to a message board? That’s a case of Dude, whatever.