Diane Duhaime of Jorden Burt LLP provides answers to trademark questions often asked by in-house counsel:
"This is the sixth in a series of introductory articles on the topic of trademark law. In our earlier articles, we covered the definition of a trademark, how to select a strong trademark, and conducting trademark searches in connection with clearing usage of a selected trademark.
Proper usage of a trademark is essential to maintaining the company’s exclusive ownership of the mark in the United States. Therefore, once the company has obtained clearance of the mark from its trademark counsel, the company will likely want to make an application for federal trademark registration of the mark.
Until the time that the federal trademark registration is received, many companies will use the SM or TM symbol with the mark. SM stands for "service mark" and TM for "trademark." Typically, one of these symbols will appear on the shoulder or foot of the last letter of the mark. For example: ABC DENTAL SCHOOLSM. Although including the SM or TM symbol with the mark is not required under U.S. trademark law, such use notifies the public that the company is claiming exclusive ownership of the mark. Also, use of the SM or TM symbol serves as an excellent deterrent to those who might be considering infringing the mark."