A service mark application is submitted to obtain protection for a registered service. Service marks are very similar to trademarks, except they apply to services instead of products. You'll have to pay specific fees for each service you're trying to register.

The Service Mark Application Process

The first step is to check the trademark records to make sure no other company or person has registered for that service mark or trademark. You can search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). A mark that's too similar in look or sound to an existing mark is likely to confuse the average consumer. TESS only covers service marks and trademarks that are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

You should also search the following for marks similar to the one you wish to register: 

  • The internet 
  • State trademark databases 
  • General business listings 
  • Phone books

You need to conduct a thorough search to make sure no one else is using your proposed mark without being federally registered. If someone is using the mark, this could lead to potential conflicts or your application being invalidated.

When choosing a search option, you can enter words contained in the mark, or in the case of logos or design searches, you'll have to use the Design Search Code Manual, which you can find via the TESS homepage.

Once you input your search criteria and hit "Submit Query,” you'll get results that either show the service mark is already registered (in which case you won't be able to use it) or that it's not in use, so you can apply to use it.

You can file online using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) by clicking to file an initial application.  Click “Trademark / Servicemark Application, Principal Register." You'll choose either the “TEAS Form” or the “TEAS Plus Form,” depending on the requirements you meet. The Plus Form has a lower fee, and you can use it only if you meet the requirements. Otherwise, you'll fill out the regular form.

International registration can be done via TEAS.

Important Information You'll Need to Provide

You'll need the following information to complete an application for a service mark

  • The name and address of the owner of the service mark 
  • The type of mark being registered, which could be a standard or special character mark or a sound mark 
  • The type of services you're using the mark for (protection only extends to these listed services) 
  • An image that shows what the mark looks like on its own and a specimen of the mark, which could be a sign or brochure that shows how you're using the mark

Next, pay the fee for registration. At the start of 2015, the fees for registering trademarks were reduced and ranged from $225 to $300, depending on the type of service being registered. You'll pay separate fees for each service or product classification. For example, if you're registering a trademark for a book series title, you have to file separate applications for e-books and print books. Fees for mail-in registrations are slightly higher than electronic applications.

When the Trademark Office receives the application for registration, they'll conduct a search to see if the mark is already in use. If not, they'll review it to make sure it adheres to their guidelines. If the Trademark Office has any problems or questions related to the application, they might send an Office Action letter. It's very important to respond to the letter by the deadline. If you fail to reply, your application may be rejected.

It can take months before your application is approved. If it's approved, your service mark registration is valid for a period of 10 years. After that, you'll have to file a renewal to keep your trademark. 

If your application isn't approved, you can appeal the decision, but your fee will likely not be returned to you.

Follow all the steps you need to take to submit a complete service mark application, including the first, very important step of making sure another entity doesn't already hold it. By following guidelines, including paying the required fees and meeting deadlines, you'll maintain the crucial protection your services need.

If you need help with a service mark application, 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.