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Trademark, Service Mark — What’s the Difference?

“It makes no difference, night or day.  The shadow never seems to fade away.”  — The Band

A potential client recently asked how is a service mark different from a trademark?  This is a common question we receive.

A trademark is anything that is used to identify the source of goods or services.  Trademarks can consist of words, slogans, designs (logos), sounds or even scents.  Prominent examples of trademarks include the word GOOGLE, McDonald’s golden arches or the Intel jingle.

The preceding paragraph states that a trademark identifies the source of “goods or services.”  A service mark is simply a subset of trademarks that identifies the provider of services.  For example, UBER identifies a ride-hailing app that provides transportation services.  JETBLUE provides airline transportation services.  Each of them has registered trademarks for their services, but those trademarks are also service marks.

For a trademark attorney there is no difference in obtaining a federal registration that covers services instead of goods.  Since federal trademark applications are filed according to the classes of goods or services the mark identifies, the only issue for the trademark attorney is to discern under which classes to file.

The only other difference between marks for goods or services is that users of an unregistered service mark could use the initials “SM” instead of “TM” with the mark.  (Using a “TM” or “SM” with an unregistered mark provides no legal protection).

If you have any questions about trademarks, please contact us to schedule a consultation.


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