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An intangible property, which is created by the human mind and intellect, is known as Intellectual Property. There are different types of intellectual property, most common of which are trade mark, patent and copyright. Intellectual property rights are the rights guaranteed to persons for their creative minds. These rights are exclusive in nature and can only be used by those individuals or entities for a certain period of time. 

World Trade Organization divides intellectual property rights into two main areas:

  1. Copyright and related rights
  2. Industrial Property

The literary and artistic works, like, sound recording, books, cinematograph films, are the works protected by copyright. The rights of producers, performers and alike is also protected under the copyright. In India, copyright is given for a period of sixty (60) years.

Under the industrial property head, there comes trade mark and patent. While trade mark protects the brand by protecting the signs, symbols, logos, slogans, phrases, etc; Patent is responsible for protecting the innovation or invention of something. Trade mark is necessary so that the customers can easily identify a business from another just by the looks of it. It is given for a period of ten (10) years and can be renewed for a further period of ten (10) years. Whereas, life cycle of a patent is twenty (20) years.


Let’s assume you started your own clothing line. In just some years it has gone famous and is a brand of its own in your state. So to let customers distinguish your brand from others, what will you do? You will add the TM sign to your brand, for example XYZ™. The TM sign can be used till you officially register your brand under the Trade Marks Act. The sign is used for unregistered trade marks while you have put an application for the registration of your trade mark.

How does it help?

The registration of trade mark can be a time taking process. To prevent unauthorized use of your trade mark, you can use the trade mark sign so that it will be clear to the customers and the competitors that you have applied for the registration and that it is not available in the market for misuse. If you are using the TM sign without applying for registration of the same, you cannot stop your competitors from registering that mark under their name. It is always beneficial and safe to register the trade mark as soon as possible.


As soon as the registration process gets completed you get to use the “R” symbol for your brand, for example, XYZ®. This symbol shows that your brand is now registered under the Trade Marks Act and protects your brand from any kind of infringement that might happen. It gives you an exclusive right over the use of such mark and shows that your trade mark is no longer available in the market for unauthorized use or misuse. In India, if you use the R sign without registering your trade mark, you can face an imprisonment of up to three (3) years, or fine or both.

How does it help?

Having an R symbol to your brand does not only show that your brand is officially registered but also protects it in case someone else decides to use your intellectual property illegally. It is a clear message to the competitors that unauthorized use of the mark will have serious consequences. There are, however, certain limitations and conditions for the exclusive right that comes with the symbol. Limitations like area of use, in case of identical or similar registrations of two or more persons in special circumstances; such exclusive right does not operate against each other. 


The “C” symbol represents copyright; the symbol is used for any literary or artistic work of an individual and shows that a person has legal rights to distribute, publish, use the copies of a particular work, for example ©XYZ, 2017. In India, copyright can be obtained for literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works; Anonymous, pseudonymous, posthumous works; cinematograph films, sound records, government work, photographs, etc. Having your work copyrighted protects it, controls who makes money from it and gives you the ownership of the hard work you have put to it.

While some countries make it necessary for the use of the symbol when it comes to claiming protection under copyright, India does not require the symbol for the claim. The reason behind this difference is the Berne Convention under which the member countries do not require the symbol for copyright to be established; the creation of the work automatically establishes the copyright. India being a member of the convention enjoys the same privilege but it is still recommended to use the symbol so as to warn any infringer that the work is not to be copyrighted.

How is it useful?

Even though the symbol © is not important for the protection of your work, it is still a sign that is used widely throughout the world including India. People tend to play safe rather than being sorry and use the symbol so that it is loud and clear that their work cannot be copied and be used for earning money without their assent or assignment. Copyrighting your work can be expensive but it is worth every penny as it protects your intellect, your creation, something you have put your mind and heart to.


The symbols “™” “®” and “©” are crucial for any person who is into trade and literary or artistic works. These symbols are a sign that unauthorized or illegal use of their work will result in penalties and punishments. The symbols are enough to let the competitors or the general public understands where their brand or work stands. It is important to be aware of the usefulness of these symbols and to use them in the most effective ways possible.

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