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How do service marks and trademarks differ?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2023 | Business Litigation

Building a business involves more than supplying products and delivering orders. Success also requires creating a memorable brand.

A company may use a service mark or a trademark to protect its brand image.

What service marks and trademarks do

A service mark is a type of branding a business uses to distinguish its services from competitors. The mark is typically a unique name or phrase. A trademark identifies a physical product that a company sells. The trademark may be a logo, name or phrase. Many times the service mark accompanies the trademark.

Some people use the terms “service mark” and “trademark” interchangeably since the two often work in tandem. A grocery store’s name may be its service mark and its trademark on private label products. However, some stores prefer to use a distinct trademark name for their private label items, though customers continue associating it with the brand.

Getting a trademark or service mark allows a company exclusive rights to use the specific emblem, logo, design, symbol or slogan for their business. Additionally, it creates a legal claim to prevent competitors from utilizing the same or a similar design or phrase to mislead consumers.

How to get a trademark or service mark

The United States Patent and Trademark Office provides the legal protection of trademarks or service marks throughout the country. To secure a trademark or service mark, a business owner should conduct a comprehensive search for existing ones, fill out an application for federal registration, pay a filing fee and respond to any inquiries from the USPTO examiners.

The process typically takes 12 to 18 months before the office approves the trademark or service mark. The benefits are worth it, with legal protection typically lasting as long as the company continually uses the labels.

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