Trademark vs. Service Mark

By Rachel Moran

Trademarks and service marks serve essentially the same purpose, but there are slight differences in how they're applied and communicated to your market. Both are administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This agency processes registrations for trademarks as well as service marks. Registration isn't mandatory, but it provides additional legal protection in certain situations.

Trademarks and service marks serve essentially the same purpose, but there are slight differences in how they're applied and communicated to your market. Both are administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This agency processes registrations for trademarks as well as service marks. Registration isn't mandatory, but it provides additional legal protection in certain situations.

Source

Trademarks and service marks may include words, phrases, symbols, images or devices that identify the source of an offer to a market. A trademark identifies the source of hard goods or tangible items, while a service mark identifies the source of services.

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Assertion

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office uses the terminology "trademarks" and "marks" synonymously to refer to both trademarks and service marks. If you choose to assert your trademark or service mark with a symbol, you don't have to register it. You may use the symbol "TM" for a trademark or "SM" for a service mark. You can use the "®" symbol only if you have formally registered your mark and the PTO has granted your application.

Use

You establish rights to trademarks and service marks by using them. Registration affords additional protection, but it doesn't guarantee that others won’t also use your mark. The best way to protect your marks is through a combined strategy of commercial use and registration; however, use alone establishes rights. You might use your marks in the packaging of goods, advertisements, promotions, branding and marketing materials or business communications, including letterheads, envelopes and invoices.

Identification

Use your marks in conjunction with what you are identifying. If there's not a clear nexus between the mark and your goods or services, you might not be satisfying the legal requirement to establish your rights. This can be somewhat trickier for service-based businesses. Avoiding confusion is important. If someone disputes your use of a mark, or if you dispute someone else's use of a mark you claim, it's always prudent to consult with an attorney experienced in trademark law.

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How to Display Trademark Wording

References

Related articles

How Do I Know If I'm Violating a Trademark?

A trademark identifies and distinguishes the origin of a product or service in the marketplace. It uses either a word, phrase, design or any combination of these. It helps people to differentiate between products and services. Businesses have exclusive rights to use their marks in commerce, so long as they do not violate another party's mark.

How to Make a Logo a Registered Trademark

Trademarks and service marks identify your goods and services so consumers may distinguish your offerings from those of every other company. Typical marks include single words, phrases, symbols, designs or some combination of these elements. You do not have to register your mark to enjoy basic trademark protection. You have rights that stem from your actual use of the mark in the course of doing business. If you want additional legal remedies that enhance your abilities to sue infringers, you must register your trademark. You may register at the state level and, if you are involved in interstate commerce, on the federal level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Should You Wait to Trademark a Name Before Rebranding?

Rebranding is expensive and risky. When you change your name or your logo, you change your product labels, advertising and promotional materials, domain name and social media accounts, so you must consider the trademark implications. This includes making sure that your new name does not infringe on someone else’s trademark and securing your new trademark rights. With planning, you can minimize trademark risks, increase the value of your trademark portfolio and expand your brand successfully.

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