A trademark is a symbol, word or phrase that identifies certain services or products that companies or individuals have ownership of. There are some cases where you do need permission to use a trademark, and others where you don't. In general, you don't need a trademark for editorial and informational purposes. If you own a business that might use trademarks, you want to avoid a potential lawsuit at all costs. Here is more information about when you do or don't need permission to use a trademark.

Using the Trademark to Provide Information

If your business needs to use a trademark in order to train employees or provide important information to your customers or clients, you can do so without needing permission from the person or business that owns that trademark. Freedom of speech protects the rights of using trademarks to educate, inform, and provide opinions. For example, if you are in the newspaper industry and providing training manuals for your employees where a certain business logo becomes relevant, you can use it without asking for permission.

Deciding to Use the TM Symbol

Typically, the TM symbol is used when you mention something that is trademarked to another person or business. However, there are some instances here you don't need to use it. If you are using the previous example of printing a story about a particular company, you don't need to use the TM symbol since it is for informational purposes. While you don't have to use this symbol, it is ethical to capitalize the company's name in your text as a way to show that you are talking about something that is trademarked. On the other hand, if you were using it for advertising purposes, you would need to use the TM symbol.

Permission for Commercial Use

Since you are a business, most trademarks will require permission. This is because, in most cases, you aren't just educating like with your employee's training manual, but you are using it for commercial or advertising purposes. If you printed brochures for your business and used a business logo in that brochure, it is considered advertising, and therefore the trademark requires permission. Commercial use of a trademark includes using it for promotion, marketing, and advertising. If the brochure was printed to potential customers as a way to show the different businesses you work with, you are attempting to sell your services through these trademarked logos, so that is still promotional.

Since trademark laws can be complicated, especially if you have a business, you should consult a lawyer. This can prevent you from using a trademark without permission and getting sued by that person or business. Contact a firm such as Carter West Law for more information.