The ™ symbol is the little mark with the T and M letters, usually sitting on the right hand side of a trade mark. It’s usually very small, yet still visible. It’s a rather common symbol that you may have seen used with both big companies and even smaller brands. 

But what exactly is it the ™ symbol, and what does it mean?

Let’s take a closer look at what the symbol stands for, when it can be used and other matters surrounding the protection of your intellectual property.  

What Does The ™ Symbol Stand For? 

The ™ symbol stands for trade mark. However, this does not mean that everything with the ™ symbol is a registered trade mark. In fact, it means that a particular form of intellectual property (IP) has not been registered as a trade mark yet, however, the business using it fully intends to make it their trade mark. 

In order to use the ™ symbol, you can already have started your application process with IP Australia or will be in the future.  

When Do I Need The ™ Symbol?

You are never obligated to use the ™ symbol, however, it can be a wise move on your part to let other businesses know that you intend on getting it registered. 

It’s important to note that while using the ™ symbol can let others know you are planning to or are currently undergoing registration for it, there is no guarantee that it will give you full protection. Therefore, it’s important to have your trade marks secured by registering them to ensure ownership of it.    

If you have already gotten your trade mark registered but want to let others know it’s a registered trade mark,  you have the option to use the ® symbol.  The ® symbol means registered and can only be used on trade marks that have been granted registration by IP Australia. 

How Do I Register A Trade Mark?

A trade mark is registered through Intellectual Property Australia (IP Australia). Once you have come up with a trade mark that you would like to register, you will need to file an application. Prior to doing the application, you may wish to look through the Australian Trademark Search to see if there are any other trade marks like yours in order to save yourself the hassle of finding out later. 

After you’ve established your trade mark is safe, you can proceed with your application with IP Australia – this part can be a bit tricky, so it’s wise to enlist the help of an IP lawyer

If your application is successful, IP Australia will notify you and your trade mark will then enter a period of opposition. During this time, anyone who wishes to come forward and challenge your trade mark being registered is able to do so. 

This period usually lasts for two months, after which your trade mark is officially registered. Once a trade mark is registered, it remains for 10 years, after which renewal is possible. 

What Can I Register As A Trade Mark In Australia?

There is a wide range of things that can be trademarked. A trade mark can be almost anything including logos, colours, smells, pictures, phrases and names. As it is used to identify a business, a trademark should be unique to the business and avoid being descriptive. 

For example, it is unlikely that someone would be able to register a common phrase as a trade mark. 

Is The ™ Symbol Valid Internationally?

In Australia, the ™ symbol can be used for trade marks that are registered overseas but are not registered in Australia yet. If you plan on using the ™ symbol internationally, it’s better to check the regulations of that country to see if you are permitted to do so. 

Alternatively, you could look into getting your trade mark registered internationally

How Else Can I Protect My Intellectual Property?

Registering a trade mark is one of many ways to protect your intellectual property. However, not everything can qualify as a trade mark and not everything can undergo a registration process through IP Australia. Thankfully, there are a number of legal options to ensure your intellectual property is secured. 

We’ll go through these options below. 

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is the ability of the owner of an original piece of work to use, licence or profit off their creations. Copyright is applied automatically once a work has been created, so there is no need to register for it. 

For example, once you have finished writing a book or added the last stroke to a painting, copyright is automatically applied to you. 

It’s important to note that copyright protection usually only applies to the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself. In other words, it needs to be in some material form to be legally protected. 

In order to protect your copyright, you can always add a statement on your work that lets others know your work is protected by copyright (you can even use the © symbol) and using it without your explicit permission is likely to be considered copyright infringement


Patents can be registered with IP Australia. If you have come up with a new and innovative device, method, process or substance, then you may have grounds to get it registered as a patent. If your patent is approved, then you will have exclusive rights to use it commercially. 

However, there are also limits to what can be patented in Australia, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with these requirements before taking any steps. 

Non-Disclosure Clauses

For forms of IP that don’t have a registration option, you can always use legal agreements as protection or even added protection for registered IP. A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a great way to do this. 

NDAs can be used as standalone agreements, or they can constitute clauses that are then added to contracts, preventing the other party from revealing your intellectual property to others outside of your contract. This essentially keeps your inside information private from and undisclosed to unauthorised third parties. 

Since it is a contract, it can be enforced and therefore provides strong security for your business’ IP. 

Non-Compete Clauses

Non-Compete Clauses can be used with employees, contractors and even suppliers (although for suppliers, an Exclusivity Clause may be more preferred). A Non-Compete Clause (or Agreement) stops others from associating with potential competitors either by geographical location or by placing a time limit. 

For example, a Non-Compete Clause for an employee may state after their contract with you has ended, they cannot work for another business in the same industry for the next 12 months (preventing them from revealing your business’ IP to other businesses in the same field). 

However, like other contractual terms, it cannot be unreasonable to the point that it is unfair to the worker. So, it’s worth consulting a legal professional when drafting a Non-Compete Clause. 

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are another form of intellectual property for anything that is considered to be confidential information

For example, a bakery that has a special recipe  may consider that recipe confidential information, and therefore part of the business’ IP. As a result, they may use Non-Compete Clauses, Confidentiality Clauses or NDAs to protect the recipe. 

What Happens In A Trade Mark Opposition?

When someone files to oppose your trade mark registration during the opposition period, you will receive a notice of opposition. What follows next will be the three stages of evidence: 

  • Stage one: the party filing the opposition has the opportunity to submit evidence 
  • Stage two: the applicant now has three months to respond by submitting evidence in answer 
  • Stage three: inally, the party that filed the opposition will need to submit further evidence within two months

After all the evidence has been submitted, a hearing can be requested for which a date will be set. If no hearing is requested, a hearing officer will make a decision based on the evidence submitted. 

Key Takeaways

There are a few important symbols when it comes to using a trade mark and intellectual property – it helps to know the difference between the different types and when to use them. Registering a trade mark is a common way to protect your IP, so it’s important to know how to use the corresponding symbol correctly. 

To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • The ™ symbol stands for trade mark and is usually found on the right hand side of a trade mark 
  • A ™ use used when a business intends to register that trade mark or is currently undergoing the process 
  • Using a ™ does not guarantee security for your trademark 
  • When a trade mark is registered, the ® symbol can be used
  • If a party opposes your trade mark registration, you will need to submit evidence in favour of your case
  • Trade marks can be registered through IP Australia
  • To use the ™ symbol in another country, check the regulations of that region first 
  • Intellectual property can also be protected by having the right legal documentation and clauses

If you would like a consultation on the ™ symbol, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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