How to Register a Service Mark

By River Braun, J.D.

How to Register a Service Mark

By River Braun, J.D.

Although many people use the terms interchangeably, a service mark is not technically a trademark. Both provide legal protections for assets such as company names and logos, but the latter applies to phrases or logos that specifically identify your products and set them apart from other similar products. Service marks, on the other hand, identify services you provide to your customers.

Man sitting at a table using a laptop with camera parts scattered around him

It is important to protect both so that you can prevent other companies or individuals from using these marks. If another party uses yours or one that is similar, it could confuse your customers. To prevent this confusion, register yours as soon as possible. The process for registering a service mark is identical to the process for registering a trademark.

1. Research your mark.

Research all available sources to determine whether your mark is already in use. There are several resources you can use to search before attempting to register yours. Begin with a general internet search to identify any individuals or businesses that may be using yours or one that is similar to yours.

Follow up an internet search with a search of the records on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A search of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) shows all marks protected by applicable federal laws and applications currently pending. You may also be able to search state databases.

A thorough search can help you avoid problems when you attempt to register it. If you choose something that is too similar to an already protected one, the USPTO will deny your application. Careful research can also save you money by alerting you to the fact that your desired service mark is already in use by another company.

2. Complete the application.

To protect yours, you need to file an application with the USPTO. You can complete the service mark registration online through the USPTO. An instructional video is available for anyone contemplating registration. You can also obtain a paper application form from the USPTO.

Before you submit your application, carefully review the form to make sure you included all required information. Among other requirements, the application asks you to provide:

  • Your name and contact information
  • The name of your service mark
  • The history of it
  • Description of the services you provide related to it
  • The date you began using it

You can download a PDF version of the online form on the USPTO website prior to starting your application to ensure you have all the required information before you begin. One of the key things to research in advance is the list of services that your mark covers.

3. Pay your fees and submit a sample.

As with all things legal, your service mark application comes at a cost. When you finish filling out your application, you must pay the appropriate filing fee. The fee for filing an online application is less than the fee for filing a paper application.

Finally, you must also submit a sample of it. The USPTO accepts a variety of samples showing your mark used in commerce, such as a photograph of the sign in front of your building or showing it on the side of your company vehicles.

Applications for registering service marks can be difficult to complete. However, by using the instructional video and other resources provided online by the USPTO, many people register theirs on their own with no issues.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.