Today we are answering a number of questions that are continuously puzzling you: When the symbol (R) can be used? What does (T) stand for? What other symbols can also be used to denote one’s rights?
These questions are repeatedly sent to our office’s e-mail, so let me discuss the relevant legal issues to clarify the returning ambiguities.
– It provides a straightforward notice that a trademark is registered. The use of the symbol (R) is governed by the Polish Law on Industrial Property (hereafter: the PIP Law). According to the currently binding regulations, this symbol can only be used by a person, in the name of whom the right of protection for a trademark has been granted.
“The right holder may indicate that their mark was registered by placing the letter (R) enclosed within a circle next to the trademark.”
– art. 153 par. 13 of the PIP Law
This means that a trademark, next to which the symbol (R) appears, has already gone through the registration procedure before the Polish Patent Office and it has been granted a right of protection.
– It points out that a given mark is used on the basis of a license. Pursuant to the law, a licensor may put an obligation upon a licensee to highlight the fact of obtaining a license to use a trademark by placing the indication “lic.” next to the mark.
– It denotes a registered geographical indication. This is a word indication which refers to the name of a place, locality, region or country, which identify a given product as originating from that territory, provided that a particular quality or a specific feature of that product is mainly attributed to its geographical origin. The use of the symbol (G) was defined under art. 190 of the IP Law. The most famous Polish geographical indication is “Oscypek” (smoked cheese made of sheep milk in some mountain regions of Poland).
– It indicates a registered topography of an integrated circuit. This indication can be placed directly upon a topography, or upon a product containing the protected topography.
Other symbols used to designate the rights to industrial and intellectual property
– The use of the symbol TM has not been regulated under the Polish legal system. Its origin can be found in the American law. However the federal regulations of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) do not also define precisely the manners of using it. The symbol TM placed in the top left corner of a logo or a trade name is intended to give notice that this is a trademark, regardless of whether it is registered or not.
The abbreviation “TM” by itself originates directly from the word “trademark” having a clear meaning. Consequently, it has been commonly assumed that the symbol TM can be used both for unregistered marks, the ones applied for registration, and those which are already registered.
– It is a derivative of the symbol TM and denotes a service mark (the initial letters of the words “service” and “mark”). Like in the case of TM, the Polish law does also not determine the scope of its use. The role of the symbol SM is to indicate that the mark is used for designating services, not products, in contrast to the symbol TM. However, the use of this designation on the market is relatively rare.
The abbreviation of “copyright”, that is an identifier intended to give notice that the given contents are protected by a copyright. As regards Poland, a copyright is conferred upon the creator regardless of fulfilling any formalities, from the very moment of creation of a work.
“The object of copyright shall be any manifestation of creative activity of individual nature, established in any form, irrespective of its value, purpose or form of expression (work).”
– art. 1 par. 1 of the Act on Copyright and Related Rights
Criminal liability for false use of the letter symbols
It was already on the grounds of the IP Law alone that liability of a party dishonestly using the symbols (G), (T), or “lic.” was determined:
“Anyone who labels objects, with the intention to put them on the market, which are not protected by a patent, supplementary protection right, utility model protection right, or right in registration for an industrial design, topography of integrated circuits or right in registration for a geographical indication, with texts or drawings intended to mislead the public that the objects enjoy the said protection, is liable to a fine or imprisonment.”
– art. 307 par. 1 of the PIP Law
The same liability extends over the parties, who knowingly introduce into trade such objects, or misleadingly inform that these objects enjoy legal protection. As regards the use of the symbol (R), any party who is not entitled to use it, is subject to a fine.
“Anyone who puts on the market goods labelled with a trademark containing a distinctive sign that is supposed to mislead the public that the objects enjoy the said protection is liable to a fine.”
– art. 308 of the PIP Law
I hope I presented a clear explanation. In case of questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
Nina Jankowska is a Attorney Trainee in the department of trademarks and industrial designs at Patpol. She graduated from the Warsaw School of Economics, currently studying law at the Kozminski University. Contact with the author