What is a service mark?

Registering a service mark makes it a registered trademark.

A trademark is a very familiar concept and symbol that indicates a recognizable mark of a company’s products, that is, its “trade”. Unregistered, a trademark is designated as ™. Registered, appears as ®. A service mark is a parallel usage to a trademark, but it is used for services rather than goods. In many of its explanations and definitions, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) actually uses the word trademark to refer to registered trademarks and service marks.

The official USPTO definition of a service mark is “any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of a provider from those provided by others, and to indicate the origin of the services. While registering a service mark is not required, it does offer several important benefits, including evidence of ownership, legal presumption of ownership, and the ability to use the application as a basis for seeking foreign registration. An unregistered service mark is indicated by the abbreviation SM. The registered symbol ® is the same as that of registered trademarks.

There are several steps to acquiring a service mark registration. The first is to determine if a service tag is the right type of intellectual property to create and prototype a brand. At the same time, it is necessary to search the USPTO Trademark and Service Mark Database for existing rights to various marks that may have a similarity to the proposed service mark. The “Design Search Code Manual” classifies trademark designs and helps search them, and the search can be done at the Public Trademark Search Library in Alexandria, Virginia. If a potentially conflicting mark is discovered, the TARR (Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval) database can be used to discover the current status of the mark.

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Once the design has been approved as non-conflicting, the application must be completed. This includes a description of the service that the service tag is intended to represent. It also includes a clear description of the service mark to be registered. There is a fee involved in the registration process, which can take several years. Often, the services of an attorney are retained for the registration of the service mark.

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