If you want your business to grow and stand out in the market, you should have a unique kind of identification.
It’ll be something that identifies and distinguishes you from your competitors in the industry.
Whether it’s for advertising or general business purposes, you need to have an identifier, which is known under the law as a trademark or service mark.
However, some businesses don’t have a clue as to what a trademark or service mark is and how they should use it.
So, read on — this article will discuss the differences between trademarks and service marks and help you determine the right term to use for your company.
What is a trademark?
A trademark, in its legal sense, can be any name, word, symbol or a combination thereof that identifies a business product.
It has been used by most companies to distinguish their products from those offered by others.
In other words, your brand name can be your company’s trademark.
For example, in the wine industry, the name and the logo of the wine is the trademark.
What is a service mark?
Legally speaking, service marks are a subcategory of trademarks.
Although it may be the same type of device as a trademark, a service mark can be anything that distinguishes your services from those of other providers.
The slogans used by companies are often treated as a service mark. In the previous example, the name and logo of the wine store is the service mark.
What are the symbols of trademarks and service marks?
When it comes to the symbols, the two concepts also differ from each other. If you see the symbol TM, it means the company is using an unregistered trademark.
On the other hand, if you see the symbol SM, it indicates a business with an unregistered service mark.
But, if you’ll encounter the symbol R, it means you’re using both registered trademarks and service marks.
How are they used in commerce?
Both trademarks and service marks can be used in commerce.
For a trademark to qualify for use in commerce, it should be affixed on the goods themselves or even on their containers.
These marks may also be included in the tags or labels placed on the goods or on the displays related to the products.
For a service mark to be used in commerce, it should be seen or used in the sale or advertising of the services that are rendered in trade.
Are they regarded as intellectual properties?
Both trademarks and service marks belong to a subcategory of business assets known as intellectual property.
It’s considered property because it’s something of value, which is owned by a company.
However, unlike other business assets, they are regarded as intangible assets because they lack the material substance.
Do you need to register a trademark or service mark?
As a business owner, for instance, you may use a trademark or service mark without having it registered with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office.
But, if you want to prevent others from using these assets without permission or payment of compensation, then registration is of paramount importance.
By registering it, you’ll legally protect your business from any issues arising from the use of these marks by other persons or entities.
How are they registered?
You should register your trademark or service mark to the right registration agency.
You may do the entire process of registration alone, but it can be a complicated task on your end. If you don’t want your application to be rejected due to minor issues, it’s a great idea to consult an intellectual property attorney who can assist you with the process.
On the other hand, applying for a trademark or service mark requires you to consider these essential points:
- Be sure, when submitting, that any mark that contains characters is in exclusively all caps as the legal protection only includes capital letters.
- Make sure to provide the exact form of a trademark or service mark that you intend to use. During the application, don’t make any changes to your mark that contains a symbol or logo unless you plan to re-file another application to reflect the alterations made.
In applying for registration, below are the steps to guide you:
- First, find time to search all registered trademarks and service marks so you can be sure that nothing is similar to yours.
- Fill in and submit the application through the USPTO. If you’re registering several versions, you need to have a separate application for each.
- Once you’ve presented all the requirements, the next thing to do is wait for the approval of your application or check the status through the USPTO website.
Why is trademark or service mark important?
Most consumers and other clients don’t know what a trademark or service mark is all about.
But, when they start looking at these marks to recognize what the company provides, it becomes more evident. While the two share some similarities, it’s best to understand their differences as explained by a trademark attorney here because each type of mark is governed and protected by different legal rules.