What is a Service Mark?

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article “What is a Trademark?”  This week, I discuss service marks.

Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Service marks are incredibly simple to understand.  A service mark is exactly the same as a trademark, but it is for services, not products.

While an owner uses a trademark to advertise and sell its products, that same owner will use a service mark to advertise and sell its services.  That is the only meaningful difference.  The Trademark Office even processes them exactly the same.

However, that difference is so insignificant that most attorneys simply refer to “trademarks” and do not use the word service mark, unless there is some very specific reason to do so.  Since there is no real difference between service marks and trademarks, it really isn’t necessary to use one term instead of another to identify one type of mark over the other.

There are two trivial differences between trademarks and service marks.

First, while you identify a trademark with the TM symbol before it is registered, you can use the SM symbol for service marks before it is registered.  However, once registered, both marks use the ® symbol.

Second, only certain specimens are sufficient to show use with service marks.  Unlike goods, for which a trademark can be applied directly onto a product, it is not possible to directly brand services with a service mark.  Instead, service marks are usually displays of the mark as used in the sale or advertising of those services.  These include websites, flyers, sides of trucks, and other displays.

But for these differences, everything about service marks is exactly the same as trademarks, and the information in my blog post two weeks ago is equally applicable.

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