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     Trademarks are signs, designs, or symbols that become associated with a specific product, service or firm. Any legal entity including individuals or firms can own a trademark. Much like other forms of intellectual property, a trademark can be licensed and it's usage can be sold. Trademarks are either designated by the superscript TM or ®. The former represents an unregistered trademark (sometimes called a common law trademark). Unregistered trademarks are still recognized by countries such as Canada and the United States, but generally have less legal protection than registered trademarks. Registered trademarks are designated by the circled 'R'. Trademark laws prevent other people from using the registered trademark for products which it is registered in. But, most of the time, other similar or even dissimilar products will be protected regardless of whether those products were registered as well. As long as the consumer can be potentially confused regarding the origin of the product then the case can be relevant. Note that trademark rights must be maintained by actually using the trademark. If a trademark is not used for a long enough period of time then it will automatically fall back into the public domain.