When starting a business, it can be confusing whether something should be marked with a trademark or a service mark. Both trademarks and service marks offer legal protection, if handled correctly.
Trademarks are used to protect companies that are involved with the creation of products. Companies that create goods would want to use a trademark to legally protect their logos or other images attached to their goods.
Service marks protect companies that provide services. Companies that provide services would want to use a service mark to legally protect the images and logos attached to to their services.
When applying for trade or service marks, it is important to submit the logo in the exact form you plan to use it in. Legal protections only extend to the exact image or logo registered as a trade or service mark.
Before filing for a trade or service mark on USPTO, it is important to investigate other companies. Make sure the content you are filing a trade or service mark for differs from the logos of other companies. Logos that are too similar to trademarked property belonging to other companies will most likely get rejected (research can be done on both a state and federal level).
There are three commonly used trademark symbols: (™), (SM), and the letter ® in a circle. Companies that want to avoid the fees attached to applying for a trade or service mark can put the ™ or (SM) symbol in their logo until they are able to apply for a legal trade or service mark. The protections attached to the trademark and service mark symbols are limited, but limited protections are better than nothing. If another company has a legally trademarked logo that is similar to a unmarked logo or a logo with the trade or service mark symbol, the limited protections do not apply. If you do register your trademark you would use the ® to receive the full protections for the trademark.
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