Trademark Overview

A business name, company slogan or tagline, insignia, symbol or logo of the business may function as a trademark and is given certain legal protections when it is used in commerce to distinguish a good or service from the good or service of another.  A trademark helps represent a standard of quality and identity that can be associated with a particular business, product or service. Trademarks can be seen, heard, and touched. They can be placed on signs, advertisements and marketing, product labels, product packaging and be communicated through media instantaneously to millions of people. Thus, a trademark is a form of trade identity for a business that can achieve enormous value.

Former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter stated, “A [trademark] is a merchandising short-cut which induces a purchaser to select what he wants, or what he has been led to believe he wants…The aim is to convey through the mark, in the minds of potential customers, the desirability of the commodity upon which it appears.” Safeguarding and/or protecting a trademark, which often becomes a very valuable asset of the business,  is essential for protecting the identity of your company, service and/or product.

Trademarks v Service Marks

While similar to a trademark, a service mark is slightly different. A trademark is used in connection to “goods,” while a service mark is used in connection with different types of “services.” A trademark may relate to a line of apparel, surfboard or skateboard, distilled spirit, or a unique vintage of wine. A service mark would relate to law practice, accounting firm, or business consulting firm. To help determine if you have a service mark, the USPTO develop the following criteria to determine if there is a service mark:

  1. A service must be a real activity;
  2. A service must be performed to the order of, or for the benefit of, someone other than the service mark applicant; and
  3. The activity performed must be qualitatively different from anything necessarily done in connection with the sale of the applicant’s goods or the performance of another service.

Even with the small difference of the definitions, the same identical mark may be used as both a trademark and a service mark by the same business. Such is frequently the case when there is a business that is selling food and providing restaurant service under the same identical mark.

Service Mark Overview

A service mark is a business name, company slogan or tagline, symbol or logo, or a combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a good or product.  In other words, a service mark is used by a business or entrepreneur to distinguish its organization’s services from those of its competitors.  Service marks may also be employed to assert that certain services derive from a single source or business and are of consistent quality.  Service marks, like trademarks, often reflect the goodwill and integrity of a particular organization or business, which may be a very valuable asset.

Trade Name

In contrast to trademarks and service marks, a trade name generally functions to identify a certain business entity, whether a partnership, limited liability company, corporation or nonprofit, and to distinguish it from other business entities regardless of what goods, products, or services are offered.

The information contained on this website regarding trademarks is presented to provide our visitors with a general understanding of what trademarks are, what functions trademarks serve, and the benefits and obligations associated with registering a trademark with the United States Trademark Office and other trademark offices around the world.  The information contained on this website should not be a substitute for legal counsel.  Please consult with one of our trademark attorneys, or another intellectual property attorney, to determine whether trademark registration is appropriate, and your rights and obligations as the owner of a federally registered trademark.