Questions on the symbols “TM”, “R”, “C” (™, ®, ©)

We often see these symbols “™”, “®”, or “©” being displayed on goods, packaging or signboard. What do they mean and whether you should care about it? How do you “obtain” one? or “register” for these symbols? How does it work?

  • The symbol “™” essentially means “trademark”. Any name, brand, device/logo can be a trademark for your products or services but not all trademark is a “registered trademark”.
  • The symbol “®” is commonly referred to as a registered trademark or trademark which has been registered officially with the local Intellectual Property Office (MyIPO, in Malaysia).
  • Hence, anyone can use the symbol “™” without registration but not anyone can use the symbol “®”. Using the symbol “®” for a trademark that is not registered is an offence under the law.
  • However, usage of these symbols is not mandatory. For example, a registered trademark owner can choose to use the symbol “™” or “®” or even not to put any symbol. Thus, when you see a product bearing a trademark with the symbol “™”, you should not assume that such a trademark is not registered.
  • In order for you to have rights given under the Trademarks Act (statutory rights), your trademark has to be registered with the local IP office (MyIPO). Among the statutory rights are exclusive rights to use a trademark and action for trademark infringement.
  • Sometimes, you would notice the symbol “©” appearing on packaging of products. This symbol “©” is referring to copyright. Copyright is another area of intellectual property different from trademark.
  • Copyright may protect the artistic element / design of the packaging. It may also protect phrases, statements, or arrangement of words, tables, etc appearing on the packaging.
  • The symbol “©” is used to indicate that certain design, artwork, or phrases are protected under copyright laws and the same should not be copied.
  • Different from trademark, copyright does not require active registration to have legal protection. However, there is a copyright system in Malaysia which accepts and records your copyright works officially with the MyIPO.