A word, phrase, symbol or logo (i.e., a mark) that represents a good or service can be a form of intellectual property if it is used to identify, brand or distinguish the good or service as being provided by a particular business. When the mark represents or signifies a product or good, it is called a trademark; when the mark represents or signifies a service, it is called a servicemark.
A mark is a symbol of a product or service, and consumers of that product or service come to associate a certain level of quality with the mark. Overtime, goodwill develops in the mark and consumers learn to associate that distinctive mark with a specific good or service. Trademarks and servicemarks are useful forms of intellectual property because they protect against others using a mark for their own commercial gain. Trademark or servicemark protection prevents others from unfairly adopting a known mark to exploit the goodwill associated with the mark in order to confuse customers into thinking that they are buying a good or service that they trust.
Trademarks specifically identify a good, a product, or even a product line. Examples of products include household cleaning implements, coffee makers, shoes, jewelry, certain foods and beverages, tools and automobiles.
Servicemarks specifically designate services. For example, house cleaning services, taxi services, delivery services, accounting services, and restaurant services are all types of services that can have iconic servicemarks associated with their brand of services.
To establish rights in a trademark or servicemark, the owner of the mark needs to use and assert his or her right in the specific mark. To do this with a product, the name or logo of the product should be accompanied by a small ™. To do this with a service, the name or logo of the service should be accompanied by a small SM. No state or federal registration is required in order to use the ™ and SM designations.
Trademarks and servicemarks can be given federal protection when they are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration of a mark allows the owner of a trademark or servicemark to use the symbol ®, and makes it illegal for any other business to use the mark when selling a similar good or service. Using a designation, such as SM, ™ or ® lets the world know that you mean business when it comes to protecting your intellectual property rights in your company’s marks.
To help you decide whether a trademark or a servicemark is right for you and your business, visit us at patentsavers.com, or call us 480-991-3435.
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