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If you have original content on your website, you may want to use the trade mark symbol to demonstrate this and protect your content. You can use trade mark symbols on any content, goods or services that represent your brand. Using these symbols will indicate to others that the content is unique and owned by you. This is important because you have worked hard to establish and build your brand, and labelling it can help protect it from those who would try to wrongly benefit from your work. This article will explain the difference between the two trade mark symbols (® and ™) and when to use them. 

What Is a Trade Mark?

You can use a trade mark to protect brand elements that you want to keep exclusive to your business. This can be:

  • words, 
  • logos, 
  • shapes, 
  • colours, 
  • sounds, 
  • smells or 
  • any combination of these. 

A trade mark can be registered or unregistered. The trade mark you have will determine which trade mark symbol you can use on your website. They also provide you with a different set of protections. 

An unregistered trade mark will be recognised as your intellectual property if it has built a reputation in the relevant market and it is unique to your brand. 

Using the ®️ Symbol

You can only use the ® symbol for registered trademarks. You can apply to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) for registration. It is generally safer to register your intellectual property because it is a sure way of knowing that your content is original and not infringing on someone else’s rights. Additionally, it is easier to enforce your rights if someone uses your original work. 

Additional benefits to having your intellectual property registered are: 

  • exclusive rights to use and benefit from the intellectual property you have trade marked;
  • legal rights and protection;
  • a distinct and unique brand;
  • added value to your business that can increase over time as the trade mark becomes established in the market; and
  • the capacity to determine who can and cannot use your intellectual property and what others can use it for.

Once you have created a website for your business content, goods or services, you may want to trade mark the business name to ensure that no one else uses it. You will then be able to add the ® symbol on your website where any registered content appears. 

Using the ™ Symbol

In comparison, you can use the ™ symbol to mark unregistered intellectual property. This will not offer as much protection as a registered trade mark but will still allow you to identify original work. In fact, you can use the ™ symbol for registered or unregistered intellectual property. However, if you have registered your intellectual property, it is best to use the ® symbol. 

One thing to remember is that you will only be able to use the ™ symbol for unregistered content if it has been in the market long enough to build a significant reputation that customers will recognise easily from others. Additionally, if you are going to use the ™ symbol, it is best to do a quick search on the IPONZ website to ensure that your content, goods, or services are original or distinct. This will ensure you are not infringing on anyone else’s rights. 

For example, if you have a baking company with a great brand and customers who come to you specifically because they know and love your baking products, you can use the ™ symbol on your website. This is because you have built a unique brand and recognised position. 

How to Register a Trade Mark

If you would like to register your trade mark, you can do this by applying to IPONZ. You will need to:

  1. search the trade marks register on IPONZ to see if your content, goods or service is unique and distinct. This will save you time in the long run and avoid a rejected application;
  2. complete the application. You will need to decide on a class or classes and an owner for the trade mark. This could be you as an individual or your company; and
  3. wait to hear from IPONZ within 15 working days.

The registration process itself can take months. Once registered, your trade mark will last 10 years before you need to renew it.

Key Takeaways

You can use the trade mark symbol on your New Zealand website. The symbol you use depends on whether or not you have registered your trade mark. If your trade mark is registered, you can use the ® symbol. You can use the ™ symbol on unregistered trade marks if your intellectual property is unique, distinctive and has a strong reputation. If you need assistance with trade marks, LegalVision’s experienced intellectual property lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to register a trade mark?

It costs $100 for each class you wish to register your intellectual property with. You may wish to register with more than one class.

How will I know if my brand’s reputation is strong enough to use the ™ symbol?

There are no set criteria for your brand’s reputation. You may wish to look at your business’ success and feedback to judge this.

How will I know if my brand is distinct from other businesses?

You can search the trade mark register on the IPONZ website to check if your brand is distinct.

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