Register a Service Mark

You should register your service mark because it publicly shows that you are the owner of the mark and that you are the only one who can legally use it.

The Advantages of Registering a Service Mark

Part of starting a business is creating a logo that serves as your trademark. You might already have a service mark that describes your services in an efficient and unique way. It's something that you've created or had created for you, and you don't want someone else to use the logo or mark as their own. You can protect your logo or trademark by registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While you don't necessarily have to register your artistic property, you can realize many benefits that come with registration, such as the following:

  • Registering lets viewers know that you have claimed ownership of the mark.
  • Registration helps you make a claim of ownership if you go to court.
  • Trademark registration in the U.S. helps you get your service mark registered in other countries.

Gaining Protections of Common Law

Even if you haven't registered your trademark, you are still able to take advantage of common law in defense of your trademark. The strongest protection for your service mark is to register it with the USTPO, but common law gives you some protection prior to registration. In order to take advantage of this protection, you must do the following:

  • Create a mark that is distinct. 
  • Use the mark in the operation of your business to denote ownership.
  • Use the superscript "SM" in any printed materials.
  • Use the mark on a regular and consistent basis.
  • Make sure to defend the mark legally if someone else tries to use it. 

The more unique the mark you create, the easier it is to establish it nationwide if you so desire. You may be able to establish it locally if there are no competitors with a similar mark, but the likelihood of a competitor with a similar mark increases on a national level. You need to use the mark in order to establish ownership. If you fail to use the mark for three years, it's considered abandoned, and you lose legal protection. In the event someone uses your mark or makes a version that is very similar to yours, you should defend it. This may require having a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter or suing the person or entity using your mark. 

Filing a Service Mark Registration With the USTPO

Before you file your service mark registration, you need to make sure it's eligible in the following ways:

  • Provide the services indicated by the mark.
  • Own the business that uses the mark.
  • Currently use the mark.
  • File the registration with the intent to use the mark.

Once you have met all of these requirements, you can start to register the mark. The first thing you need to do is go to the USTPO website to search the database for all registered marks. Once you are on the website, you can search for marks with words or by their design. A design search requires the use of the USPTO's Design Search Code Manual. Click "submit" to see what information gets returned from the query. If you find that the mark is already in use by someone else, you will not be able to register it. If no hits match, you are able to apply to register your mark.

Go to the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) and click on the link for Initial Application Form. Find and click on the link for Trademark/Service Mark Application, Principal Register. Read and understand the requirements for filing an application via the TEAS Plus form. This Plus form costs less to file, but you can't use it if you don't meet the requirements. If this is the case, choose the TEAS Basic form and fill it out. Supply information about the service mark's owner and an image of how the mark is used in your business. Verify the information that you entered and choose a payment method, then click the "pay/submit" button. Your registration will be confirmed through the contact information you provided on the form. 

If you need help with registering a service mark, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.