TypeTalk: Trademark and Register Symbols

TypeTalk is a regular blog on typography. Post your questions and comments by clicking on the Comments icon above. If Ilene answers your question in the blog, you’ll receive one Official Creativepro.com T-Shirt!

Q. Are there any rules for setting register and trademark symbols? What sizes, positions, and fonts are best?

A. These symbols, while annoying to the designer, are legal designations that are required to appear in certain places. While there are no hard and fast rules to how to use them, there are guidelines to using them tastefully (if that is possible!).

The size and design of register and trademark symbols vary widely from font to font. For this reason, you’re not married to those in the font in use and are free to adjust the typeface as well as the size and position. (Unless it conflicts with your client’s guidelines, of course.)

Register and trademark symbols can take many shapes and sizes. I set the examples below in Abadi Condensed, ITC Abaton, Antenna, Variex, Adobe Caslon Pro, Enclave, Gill Sans Pro, Myriad Pro, ITC Redonda, and ITC True Grit.

Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

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Posted on: January 21, 2009

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

13 Comments on TypeTalk: Trademark and Register Symbols

  1. I have to set these quite often. I find that some of the Pro Open Type fonts have the registration and the TM correctly sized and positioned, but not all. Other times I find that using the superscript option in InDesign (CS2) and Illustrator (CS2) is quite good. When these options fail, then I default to using the methods described above. Obviously if you are only doing one instance of a TM or registration mark, not a problem, but if you do it multiple times, across many documents these options are quicker and almost as good.

  2. Probably most important after composition is that the trademark symbol, generally speaking, need only be used at the first appearance of the trademark name in a single document. Using it more than once is unnecessary and grossly unattractive.

  3. I enjoyed your post on the technical aspects of including (r) or tm symbols in typography. Two questions and a comment:
    Question: Some trademarks are not trademarks, but “service marks” (technically, all marks used in connection with a service, as opposed to a good, constitute a service mark). The abbreviation for an unregistered service mark is “sm”. There isn’t an ASCII code for “sm”, which makes using it (especially in body text, and REALLY especially on the web) nearly impossible. Do you have any hints to help web designers if their client wants an “sm” mark rather than a TM?
    Question: Many trademarks are “design” marks, meaning that it may be a non-word symbol (like the Pepsi swirl, for example, for the NBC peacock). What are your thoughts about setting the symbols when there are no words with which to compare it?
    Comment: I wish you would have included a paragraph just letting the typographers know the purpose of the mark designation. TM is for trademarks that have not been registered (at least in the US) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It can mean that an application is on file, or it can mean that, even though no registration has been sought, the trademark owner claims “common law” or state trademark rights. Adding the “TM” notice is very important to include, because it is the only way to communicate
    to the public and to competitors that you’re claiming this word as a trademark. I’m sure clients would appreciate a design professional simply asking: “Are there any other words, designs, or symbols in this piece that you claim as a trademark for any particular goods or services?”
    (R) is the designation for trademarks that have been registered with the USPTO. There is a (slim) possibility that if a person uses an (R) symbol improperly, the rights holder could forfeit some of her rights in the trademark. So a good design professional may just want to ask the client (especially if the client is smaller): “Has a federal trademark registration been issued for all of the trademarks with which you’ve requested that we apply the (r) symbol”?

    Thanks again for the post,
    Kyle Kaiser
    arbitraryandfanciful.wordpress.com

  4. Although it’s true that a registered trademark or trademark can be used the first time a trademark is used, that also is up to the client. I’ve had clients who wanted a circle r the first time it was used on every spread, and others who want it used every single time a name appears. Their typesetting looked like it was hit by gunfire. Also some clients demand a statement at the end spelling out their rights like “Product is a registered trademark of Company.”

  5. First time into forums and I find these really useful. Hanging quoatation marks and where to place register symbols didn’t register with me until now. JUst placed them before, now I have guidelines. Thanks and I think I have a lot of catching up to do with this forum.

  6. It’s also worth noting that you only need to use these symbols once per trademark (in each piece of work) for them to serve their legal role of notifying the reader these words are a trademark or registered trademark. There’s nothing more distracting than reading text that’s interrupted by “TM” on every second line. Or, as I’ve seen in some, every second word. Note, too, that the legal validity of “TM” varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

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  8. Is there a standard for placement of this mark? Does it belong on the text baseline, or should it be superscripted, like the trademark symbol? Our company added a tag line to our logo for branding long enough ago that it is now registered. The new artwork arrived with the R superscripted. It sits next to our logo – which has the same symbol on the baseline. Please help!

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  12. I’m an Associate Creative Director managing a small in-house team of designers and copywriters. Recently, one of my designers got into a heated debate with a marketing strategist over the correct placement of the registered trademark at the end of a sentence. The designer used kerning/tracking to “pull” the period underneath the registered trademark symbol (for aesthetic reasons). The strategist said that this implied that the entire sentence is trademarked when in reality only the company name is trademarked. He instructed the designer to move the period to the end of the sentence after the trademark symbol. The result is a really ugly spacing problem and a period hanging out there in limbo. The designer and I argued that since the period was exactly below the trademark symbol, it was allowable (not to mention much more aesthetically pleasing). It seems to me that the same rule that applies to the placement of periods within quotation marks should apply here. My company follows AP style, which states that periods should always appear within quotation marks regardless of whether the period is part of the quoted material or the larger sentence. This seems like a logical parallel to the trademark/period issue. In other words, aesthetic considerations should trump the gramatical “letter of the law.”

    Who’s right? Beyond just wanting to win the debate, I need to know how to handle this question if it pops up again. Any clarification you can offer would be much appreciated!

  13. Is there a prescribed way…or recommended way to write a sentence with the last word followed by a register symbol and then a question mark. Also…quotes followed by a register symbol and then a period or question mark…awkward at best? Thank you…we are designing an information panel that will be viewed by many.

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