A trademark is a logo or a phrase identifying particular goods sold in commerce; a service mark, by contrast, is a logo or phrase that identifies particular services offered by an individual or business. The terms "trademark" and "service mark" are often used interchangeably, and the process for registration of both types of marks is identical. Applying for a service mark can be very intensive due to the need to perform a thorough background search to make sure that the proposed service mark is not in use. Before attempting to register a service mark on your own, you should contact an online document preparation service or an attorney for legal counsel.
Perform a background search in order to determine if anyone is using your proposed service mark. Begin by searching in the United States Patent Office's Trademark Electronic Search System, TESS. Keep in mind that the TESS system only covers trademarks and service marks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO.
Search state trademark databases, the Internet, phone books and general business listings for service marks like yours. An in-depth search is necessary as someone may already be using your proposed service mark without federal registration, and this could cause potential conflicts or the invalidation of your service mark application.
Complete the application for your service mark registration with the USPTO. You may complete the form online by using the TEAS system or you may obtain a paper form directly from the USPTO. Provide the USPTO with your background information, the name of your service mark, a description of the services you will be offering with your mark, and the date you began using your mark to identify your services. You will not be required to complete the logo portion of the application unless you have a graphic logo for your service mark. The same form is used for both trademarks and service marks.
Provide the USPTO with a specimen showing the use of your mark in commerce. Any materials showing the use of your mark, including a picture of a sign identifying your business on a storefront, will suffice.
Pay the requisite filing fee to the USPTO. The fee is less expensive for online applications.