Using Intellectual Property Symbols to Protect Your Content Online

Intellectual property has always been an invaluable asset for manufacturers and service providers. However, intellectual property has traditionally been viewed as a preserve of big business, but this perception has since changed with the internet becoming the equalizer for big and small businesses. 

When marketing your products or services online, your content becomes your greatest asset. As a result, protecting it is paramount. The only sure way to ensure your content is safe is properly using your intellectual property symbols. 

If using intellectual property rights to protect your online content is a new concept, worry not, as this guide is a good read.

What are Intellectual Property Symbols?

Intellectual property symbols are symbols used to indicate ownership of intellectual property rights to a particular work or product. These symbols are used to inform others about the registration status of the items in question. 

Several IP rights are registrable for protection under IP laws, all of which have distinct symbols. Below is a breakdown of these symbols that apply to online content and how to use them. 

The Copyright © Symbol

Copyright is a legal right that gives the owner of a creative work the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and sell that work. Copyright applies to many works, such as music, literature, art, photography, and film. Copyright belongs to the original creator of a work by default unless under very rare circumstances. 

However, a copyright holder only gets the legal right to use the © symbol after registering for copyright protections under IP laws. Having the © symbol on your content helps prevent copyright infringement and makes enforcing your rights much easier.

The generally accepted copyright rule in online content is placing the © symbol at the footer of the page where you publish your content. If you have multiple pages of content, ensure the symbol appears at the footer of every page. 

Also, the general practice involves including the year of publication and the name of the entity that owns the copyright. For example, Copyright © 2023 Jane Doe. 

A copyright abbreviation “copr” is also acceptable in place of the © symbol. You may also want to include a statement explaining the terms under which others can use your content.

Trademark Symbols

A trademark is a distinctive symbol, word, logo, slogan, or phrase that identifies and distinguishes a product or service from its competition. 

Like copyrights, trademarks are registrable for protection under IP laws. However, you could still claim a trademark even when you haven’t registered it for protection.

There are three applicable trademark symbols that you could use on your online content; TM, ®, ℗, and the SM symbol. If you are wondering what the trademark symbols mean, below is a brief explanation of each and where they apply.

The TM symbol stands for “trademark.” It is used to indicate the user of the word, phrase, symbol, or design lays a trademark claim on it. The TM symbol can be used by anyone who claims the right to a trademark, irrespective of its registration status. 

The TM sign is often placed next to the trademarked item, for example, MyCompany Name TM or MyComapnyName™. After registering your trademarks, you get the right to use the ® symbol alongside your trademarks. 

So instead of MyComapnyName ™, you get the right to use MyComapnyName®. If you deal with services exclusively, you can use the SM as an alternative to the registered trademark symbol. SM is the acronym for service mark and is exclusively used to protect trademarks in marketing services. 

Registering Your IP 

Countries have different IP laws, which also determine the agencies responsible for registering them. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office in Canada is the constitutionally mandated agency responsible for registering IP rights. 

While the process of IP registration is designed to be straightforward, it’s not always easy and often calls for working with an IP agency.


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