I saw a designation I’ve not seen before on some packaging at Costco this weekend. We walked down the coffee aisle, and the Starbucks VIA coffee packets were branded with a NEVER BE WITHOUT GREAT COFFEE tagline followed by a “TM / MC” label. I haven’t seen this label before (as others apparently haven’t either), so I had to do a little research as to whether this was some sort of US label I’d never heard of, or if it had to do with trademark requirements in other countries.
The “MC” label is a notice symbol used in Canada to designate a common law trademark. In the US, common-law marks are identified, if their owners choose to identify them, with a “TM” designation. The TM symbol conveys that the owner considers the mark associated with the TM to be a trademark, but has not registered the mark federally. Federally registered marks can carry the ® label. Similarly, Canada has a dual-mode notice system that differentiates between registered and unregistered marks. The symbols ® or MD indicate that a mark is registered with the Canadian Trademark Office, and the symbols TM or MC indicate the mark is not registered. MD stands for Marque Déposée, and MC stands for Marque de Commerce. The MD and MC versions are more frequently used in the French side of Canada to the eastern part of the country, but frequently large distributors will simply mark their products with both the English and the French designations. In Quebec, some will even use an E in a circle (for “enrigistrée”) in place of the English symbol ®. (for “registered”).
Having seen this mark in Arizona, a long way from Quebec, I am surprised that Starbucks is branding its products so widely and consistently.