When you create a business that provides a service, there are numerous moving parts that need to be considered for success. For any business, it is vital to build brand awareness. Your brand often consists of your name, logo, and the way you present yourself through advertising, marketing, and your digital presence. You want to create a brand that is recognizable to your current and prospective clients. A service mark is part of the success of your business.
Once you develop your name and logo, you want to ensure it is protected and cannot be used by another service provider. This can create confusion and cost you business. This is where a service mark (SM) is key.
A service mark is a type of trademark. It is a logo or a brand name that identifies the provider of a specific service. A service mark is one aspect of intellectual property protection, ensuring that competing businesses cannot use the same word, phrase, symbol, or design that could confuse consumers.
Whether you are just establishing your business, looking to rebrand, or looking to protect what you already have, a service mark is the smartest way to prevent possible theft or misuse of your intellectual property and allow the opportunity to seek monetary reimbursement if your mark were to be infringed upon.
A service mark differs from a trademark in that it is applied to a service provider and not just an establishment where goods come from. However, it is not uncommon to find the terms used interchangeably. When you want to register a service mark, you start by filing an application for it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
You need to ensure that you can show that your business is providing a true service. This is typically defined as something that is not a tangible good but something performed for another party. This could be for a company that offers childcare, cleaning services, home services, and more. While you don’t necessarily offer physical products, you offer a specific act, aka “service.”
When a service mark is granted and registered, the standard symbol ® is used. You may also see “Reg U.S. Pat & TM Off.” Before registration, it is typical to identify it with the service mark symbol ℠.
These differences may seem confusing at first, especially due to a variety of potential grey areas that exist in intellectual property law. TM and SM are only used for service marks or trademarks to indicate that it is already owned. The “R” symbol represents that the trademark or service mark is registered with the USPTO.
Owning and operating a business takes a lot of hard work and commitment. In most cases, you have to build your brand from the bottom up. This takes not only time but money as well.
The way to protect your financial and time investments is through registering your logo or name with the USPTO. While this isn’t required, it does show your potential competition that you legally own your name or logo throughout the entire U.S. This ensures that you are protected against others accidentally or purposefully trying to confuse or take your customers.
Intellectual property protection is one of the benefits of choosing to have a service mark. Having a service mark is one of the most ideal legal means of deterring others from taking your name or logo. Without a service mark, the brand you have put so much effort into making can still be categorized as public domain. This makes seeking legal recourses difficult.
With a service mark, you are entitled to financial repayment if someone were to attempt to use your name or likeness for their own services. If you are considering offering your services on the global market, it is also easier to obtain the service mark in the U.S. versus foreign markets.
Another great perk of having a service mark is the ability to confidently produce an identity that is specific to you. The purpose of marketing is to increase your reach to your target audience. To ensure your reach, you have to create and maintain a certain brand. A brand is what associates your name with quality customer care. This is largely through recognition and the ability to identify the name or logo. This is what helps a business grow and thrive.
Some companies have developed such strong brand awareness that their name is used interchangeably with the product itself, such as Chapstick, Band-Aid, Kleenex, Crockpot, and many more. While these companies offer products versus services, the power of a great brand remains the same.
A: One of the most well-known examples is the “Just Do It” phrase associated with Nike. The brand name is protected under a service mark, and the symbol is recognized around the globe.
A: It can get confusing as many companies choose to implement both service marks and trademarks, but there are certain differences. The key difference to remember is that a trademark is designed to identify the source of goods, while the service mark designates the provider. Nike shoes are a good protected by trademarks, while the company itself is protected by their service marks.
A: There are numerous benefits to officially registering and getting a service mark for your logo. A logo is a significant aspect of brand awareness. It is what your new and returning customers recognize. Your logo is a major aspect of your marketing campaigns as well. A service mark ensures that another company can’t use the same image, confusing or stealing away your customer base.
A: Service marks, like trademarks, do not have an expiration date. The service mark can last for as long as you are using that name, image, or whatever element you have protected. In certain states, there is a need to renew your registration every five years to demonstrate that it is still in use. A qualified legal representative can help ensure you renew on time and without hassle.
If you want to learn more about service marks or you have found evidence of infringement, legal representation can help you navigate these complicated waters. In Denver, Four Reasons Legal has the experience you need to help ensure your services and products are properly protected. Contact us to learn more.