UIC Review of Intellectual Property Law


James Juo


The letter R enclosed in a circle (i.e., the “®” symbol) is a well-known form of statutory notice for a trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This helps ensure that the public will identify a mark as a source identifier rather than as a generic term for a product or service. Although not mandatory, failure to display the registration symbol or another form of statutory notice with a registered trademark may limit the monetary remedies recoverable in a lawsuit for infringement of that registered mark under the Lanham Act. Absent statutory notice, damages for infringements and other violations under the Lanham Act would be limited to an accounting period beginning after the defendant received actual notice of the registration. While § 43 of the Lanham Act also allows recovery of damages for violations of unregistered marks, the recoverable damages for a trademark registrant may still be limited even with respect to these unregistered rights in connection with a registered mark. Otherwise, the registrant could recover the same damages for the same mark regardless of whether statutory notice was given. A trademark registrant also may elect to recover statutory damages against a counterfeit of the registered mark instead of actual damages. Although a few courts have held that the statutory notice requirements of the Lanham Act do not apply to the recovery of statutory damages for counterfeiting, this would appear to be contrary to the public policy of encouraging registrants to give statutory notice of trademark registrations. This article will discuss the requirements for actual notice and statutory notice of a trademark registration, and then discuss how this applies to the recovery of damages in connection with that registration.