What are Trademarks and Service Marks?


Trademarks and service marks protect the names, phrases, logos, and other identifying aspects of your brand. If you have a business or product name that you want to protect, then you'll want to make sure it's trademarked. Trademarking is relatively simple in the United States—and can be done on your own or through an attorney—but there are some things to consider when choosing between trademarks and service marks.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a type of identifier in the form of phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, used to distinguish the source of the goods of one party from those of others. The use of trademarks in commerce may be regulated by law.

What is a Service Mark?

A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service. Service marks are used to identify services instead of goods. They may be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

How do I get a Trademark or Service Mark?

To obtain federal protection, you must apply to the USPTO. If you want state protection as well, you must also file an application with each individual state agency (if one exists).

How Long does it take to get a Trademark or Service Mark?

You can apply to get a trademark or service mark as soon as you have a business plan, but it's best if you wait until your company has been actively operating for at least one year. It takes 6 months to 3 years to get your trademark or service mark. It depends on the complexity of your application and how quickly the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) processes it.

When should I file for a Trademark or Service Mark?

In general, you should file for a trademark or service mark as soon as possible after you have decided to use the mark in commerce. You can file a trademark application anytime during your period of use (or before), but it is best to file before you start using the mark in commerce. To show that you have used your trademark in commerce, you will need evidence such as invoices or orders from customers, advertisements, catalogs and business cards that contain the mark. The more evidence available for examination by USPTO examiners when they review your application, the better chance there is of approval of an otherwise acceptable application.


A trademark or service mark is a word, phrase or symbol that helps to distinguish your brand from other brands. When you register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) it gives you the exclusive right to use that mark nationwide in connection with the goods/services listed on your registration. A registration gives you certain rights as well as protections from others using similar marks for similar goods/services. It also allows you to stop someone else from using your mark if they're likely to cause confusion about its source or sponsorship by confusingly similar marks on related products.


The process of getting a trademark and service mark can be long and tedious, but it's well worth the effort.