Updated November 24, 2020:

A registered service mark search refers to a search a business owner conducts to determine whether the service mark he or she intends to register is already taken. A service mark serves the same purpose as a trademark, but it applies to a service instead of a product or an identity. Performing a registered service mark search is a necessary step in the process of registering a service mark. While it is a relatively easy task, you may want to use certain search tactics to get better results.

What Is a Service Mark?

A service mark is a subset of a trademark. It is the same kind of tool as a trademark, but it distinguishes a company's service from that of another company.

A service mark often comes in the form of a slogan. For instance, the service mark of a plumbing company may be “The Leak Fixers,” regardless of whether it has a distinctive logo. Another example is McDonald's. Is the fast-food giant considered a product or a service? As a business organization, McDonald's is a service. However, within the service it provides, it has many trademarked products, such as the Big Mac®.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a service mark as a certain kind of trademark that instead of identifying a tangible product, identifies a service or an intangible activity that one person performs for the benefit of another person in exchange for pay or something else.

Registering a Service Mark

A service mark is also similar to a trademark in that it does not have to be registered. Just using it is enough to establish common law rights. Nonetheless, having a registered service mark can be beneficial in the event litigation arises. In most states, there are requirements for the registration of service marks.

If your service mark is registered with your state, you may prohibit other people from manufacturing, displaying, using, or selling counterfeits or imitations of the mark. Before you register a service mark, you should perform a search to ensure another person or a company is not already using the mark. If your service mark is not registered, you can use the raised service mark symbol ℠.

Process of Registering a Service Mark

Search the registered service mark records. Before you start the registration process, you need to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to find out whether another entity is already using your service mark.

  1. File online — If your service is still available for registration, you can use the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) to file your application online.
  2. Register internationally — You can also use the TEAS system to register your service mark internationally.
  3. Pay the registration fee — The fee for registering a trademark or a service mark is between $225 and $300.
  4. Include a specimen — Your registration must include a mark specimen, which is an example of your service mark in use.
  5. Wait for a response — The USPTO will determine whether your service mark meets their guidelines and will then inform you whether it is approved or rejected.

First, you need to define the class you wish to register for. This can be done using the Trademark Class Search tool. Just enter your service, and the tool will show you which class or classes it belongs to. After determining the class, you can use the online trademark database to conduct a service mark search.

When you are searching, it is recommended that you try different combinations of your service mark. For instance, if you are searching for AMAZON, try searching for HAMAZON, AMASON, or similar word patterns and spellings.

Avoid looking for services that are identical to yours. If your service mark is too similar to another registered mark, it will most likely be rejected because it can cause consumers to be confused. Without a clear service mark, consumers may not be able to tell which company is providing the service.

If you are providing both services and products, you may be unsure whether you should use service marks or trademarks. Many businesses that offer services and products use both service marks and trademarks, so you can do the same as well.

If you need help conducting a registered service mark search, 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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.