Trademark versus Servicemark, and the somewhat obvious difference between them

Most people don’t realize that there’s such thing as a “servicemark” (also written as “service mark”). Basically, a service mark is a logo, phrase, or word that is used to advertise a service (such as “peace of mind is the most valuable asset of all” that appears on this website).

This is different than a trademark (also written as “trade mark”), which is a logo, phrase, or word that is used to advertise and/or distinguish a product (e.g., that distinctive red aluminum can with its white script logo, which contains the most popular cola on Earth). (By the way, the appearance of that distinctive red can with white script is also protected intellectual property known as “trade dress.” Just the way the packaging looks has come to define what’s in it . Think about this: When was the last time you actually read the script versus you just saw it and immediately recognized it for what it is?)

The difference is subtle but important. Remember to utilize the appropriate “circle TM” or “circle SM” where appropriate, and change them to the “circle R” when appropriate.

If you need assistance with trade- or servicemark issues, including registering the same with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, I’m here to help.

Greg Borman is an attorney in San Diego, California, who advises and represents businesses of all sizes and stages, as well as their owners. He can be reached at greg@bormanlaw.com or at (858) 232-7100.

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