In my current scenario i'm required to fill a drop-down with software options so the user can select the options he's familiar with. This list includes names like "AutoDesk AutoCAD" and "Adobe Photoshop".

My question comes from observation on some big companies sites:

However this behavior is not always consistent, in some cases, the brands are referenced in the footer: legal jibber jabber

Since the site will be publicly visible and is from a real company, is it required for any brand references have their included legal symbol or/and footer/contract notes about the use of the brand names?

  • It should be "Intel®", not a C in a circle symbol. The C-in-a-circle means "copyright" and is often used to introduce the copyright date, but it is not required. Sometimes the symbol (C) is used, with parentheses instead of the circle, because the C inside a circle glyph is not always technically feasible, or because typing "(C)" is easier for most typists. See: Can I use the copyright symbol and rights statement if I haven't registered the copyright?
    – Brandin
    Oct 4, 2018 at 8:48

4 Answers 4


It is not required.

The companies undoubtedly prefer that you include those designations, and they may even write to say that you should, but that is just them doing their due diligence in policing their brands.

In the instances you cited, there is probably some agreement between those companies to include those markers.

If you don't have such an agreement, there is no obligation to notify the users of your website that some third party has trademarked a name that you mention.


No, use of such symbols is not required

You may not, without permission, use trademarks in such a way that a reasonable person would believe that the trademark holder has endorsed or sponsored or approved your product (or service) or that your product comes from the trademark holder or the same source as the trademark product.

Use of the ™ or the R-in-a-circle symbol can help make this clear. Better is a more explicit disclaimer, possibly using a symbol. Something such as

OtherProduct™ is a trademark of Acme Corp. Acme has not sponsored, endorsed or authorized MyProduct, nor is MyCompany in any way affiliated with Acme.

Including such a disclaimer without the symbol should also do the job.

It is permitted to say things like "MyProduct accepts files output by Acme's OtherProduct." or "MyProduct is 30% faster than OtherProduct." (provided that they are not clearly false statements. Use of the symbols in such statements may help make it clear that you are not claiming rights to those marks, but is in no way required.

The C-in-a-circle really has no use other than in copyright notices. No one that I know of even asks others to use it when referring to the name of a copyrighted work. The plain-text form "(C)" was never given effect under US law, although many used it. The forms specified in 17 USC 401 are C-in-a-circle, "copyright" and "copyr." But since 1989 all copyright notices are strictly optional under US law anyway (and in the law of most other countries also) using "(C)" will probably not cost the author any significant legal rights or protections.


Not knowing the law or your general answer, I would say it's better to be cautious than to be wrong. It could be the case that it's not a copyright violation right away, but these companies will sue if they can get away with it... or if you're to small to mount an effective legal defense. Or there just really protective of their copyrights (Looking at you, Disney). An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

  • I completely agree and it's currently not an issue nor it affects negatively the UI experience, however i'm just curious about the reasoning behind the use of the symbols on those sites and if it's necessary or just a "silly don't wanna be sued for no reason thing".
    – Nick
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:09
  • 1
    This answer does not make a lot of sense. There is almost no imaginable scenario in which a company discovers that you copied and redistributed their copyrighted work without permission, but then decides not to sue you because you wrote "(C)" with their name next to their work. Either you have their permission or you don't.
    – Brandin
    Oct 4, 2018 at 8:56
  • @NickLeBlanc: Ever written a research paper and had to cite your source? It's the same thing. Basically it's you saying that certain programs are not your own ideas, you're just a distributor or whatever this thing does. It's not making you immune to lawsuits, but it is a brick in the legal defense because you can point to it and say you showed that it was a product with certain trademarks, so you were not misrepresnting yourself as the product's intellectual owner.
    – hszmv
    Oct 4, 2018 at 14:29

The use of trademarks is typically governed by the Terms of Use that their owners publish. Adobe say this, in particular, in their Trademark Guidelines:

When using Adobe trademarks, use the appropriate trademark symbol on the most prominent (or if none is prominent, the first) appearance on the materials. Please refer to the database of Adobe trademarks (http://www.adobe.com/misc/agreement.html) for proper marking requirements. Once marked, it is not normally necessary to mark subsequent appearances of the trademark in the piece.

You should consult each vendor's Terms of Use as appropriate.

  • Such guidelines are not binding on anyone, except those who have entered into some sort of agreement with the trademark holder, in which the guidelines are made part of the agreement. The trademark holder cannot unilaterally impose restrictions beyond those in the actual trademark law, which in most countries does not require the use of these symbols (I don't know of any country where it is required, but I don't know the law of every country.) Holders sometimes require such agreements with those wishing a license to resell their products. Aug 23, 2019 at 1:17
  • I'm sure there'll be many willing to test this theory in courts. If you're small potatoes it's unlikely the likes of Adobe will go after you for a missing ®. If you're not, they might, and it'll cost you whether they win or lose. Most potatoes I know choose not to try their luck.
    – mustaccio
    Aug 23, 2019 at 1:32
  • I would need to do some research to find case law, but I'm fairly sure that there are already court decisions to this effect in the US. I don't know about other countries. Aug 23, 2019 at 1:36
  • Isn't it similar to "By opening this box you agree to the terms and conditions printed on the inside of the box"? "By showing our trademark on your web site you agree to the terms and conditions of showing our trademark on your web site".
    – mustaccio
    Aug 23, 2019 at 1:45
  • The conditions under which contracts of adhesion of that sort are enforceable are limited. I don't think that your suggestion would be enforceable in most jurisdictions. The exact law will vary by jurisdiction. That is really a separate question, in my view. Aug 23, 2019 at 1:49

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