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Understanding The Difference Between Trademarks And Service Marks

A brand name is a recognizable image, example, or articulation that separates one source's labor and products from another. The service mark symbol distinguishing and separating one party's merchandise from another's can be a word, expression, image, plan, or a blend of these parts.


A service mark, then again, is a practically identical licensed innovation expected to recognize and separate one supplier's administration from another. A term, expression, image, or craftsmanship associated with help instead of a material decent can be remembered for this. It is fundamental for organizations and people giving labor and products to realize the distinction between The Difference Between Trademarks And Service Marks, brand names, and service mark symbols.


Their capacity to attest their privileges, register their brand names, and shield their licensed innovation is influenced by this comprehension. Furthermore, for clients to understand the idea of the contributions and the source behind them, they should know about the differences. Understanding the contrasts between these two kinds of protected innovations is fundamental.


This comprehensive guide will take an in-depth look at the difference between service marks and trademarks. So, stuck with us till the last part!

Key Takeaways: The Difference Between Trademarks And Service Marks

  1. The fundamental distinction lies in their application; a trademark represents a product, while a service mark denotes a service a business offers.

  2. Both service marks and trademarks offer similar legal protection, with the primary difference being the nature of what they represent—goods (trademark) or services (service mark).

  3. In practice, service marks are often denoted with the symbol "SM" or the encircled "SM," while trademarks use the symbols "TM" for unregistered marks and ® for registered marks.

What Do Trademarks Protect?

Different resources, for example, brand names, logos, mottos, and, surprisingly, specific item bundling or plan parts, are safeguarded by brand names. Fundamentally, a brand name can be utilized to protect anything that assists with distinguishing and putting one organization's items aside from another.

Legitimate Safeguard That Brand Names Give

Brand names offer lawful insurance by giving the proprietor the sole right to involve the imprint regarding the items or administrations it addresses. This suggests that outsiders are denied from utilizing an imprint that confuses clients. Proprietors of brand names are qualified to record a claim to stop unlawful use or encroachment of their imprints.


what do trademarks protect

Recognizable Reserved Resources

Reserved resources incorporate notable brand names like Coca-Cola, the "swoosh" logo from Nike, the brilliant curves of McDonald's, and snappy expressions like "Just Do It" from Nike. It is also possible to trademark distinctive product packaging, color schemes, and sounds, including the Intel jingle and the Coca-Cola bottle's unique shape. These examples show the wide range of goods that trademarks can be used to protect.

What Are the Defendants of Service Marks?

Service marks safeguard the distinctiveness of services as opposed to tangible goods. While service mark symbols particularly relate to the distinctive qualities and branding of services companies or individuals provide, trademarks are often connected with products. This includes distinguishing elements like slogans, logos, and service names.

Distinctive Features of Service Marks

Service marks protect the uniqueness and trademarks connected to different services. They guarantee that customers can distinguish between services provided by various suppliers, fostering clarity and averting misunderstanding in the marketplace. Service marks symbols are specific to the intangible services and experiences a firm offers, as opposed to trademarks related to tangible goods.

Instances of Services with Marks

Notable brands like FedEx for delivery and coordinated factors administrations, American Express for monetary and installment administrations, and Airbnb for neighborliness and housing administrations are a couple of administration-checked administrations.


These service mark symbols communicate the dependability and quality of the corresponding services in addition to helping to identify the suppliers. The fact that well-known service phrases like "Think Different" by Apple and "We Try Harder" by Avis are also shielded under service marks highlights the unique branding qualities in the service sector.


service mark registration

Methodology for Enrolling Brand Names

To enlist a brand name, thorough research should be done to ensure the chosen imprint is still being used. The application must also be prepared and filed with the appropriate experienced property office, and any questions or oppositions must be addressed during the examination phase. The trademark is registered upon approval, giving the owner the only authority to use it for the designated products.

Procedure for Registering a Service Mark

The service mark registration includes the following steps:

●      Completing a thorough research.

●      Getting ready and presenting the application custom-made to the administrations given.

●      Settling any worries that emerge during the examination phase.


After a service mark registration has been completed, it defends the remarkable personality of the administrations the proprietor offers by forbidding outsiders from involving indistinguishable imprints in a manner that would deceive clients.

Variations in the Procedures for Registration

Regarding trademarks and service marks, the basic procedures of searching, creating applications, and going through inspection are comparable. Still, the main distinction is what kind of offerings are being safeguarded. While service mark registrations are related to services, trademark registrations are more concerned with products. As a result, to ensure that the protection corresponds with the kind of offering linked with the mark, the applications and registrations are customized to reflect this differentiation.

Application and Showing

To guarantee proprietorship and illuminate the public that an imprint is safeguarded, it is vital to accurately use brand name images like ® for enrolled marks and ™ for unregistered checks. In addition to supporting the proprietor's privileges, utilizing these images with the reserved name, logo, or trademark can act as a prevention against future encroachment.

Using Service Mark Symbols Correctly

Similarly, the protected status of service-related branding elements is communicated through the appropriate use of service mark symbols. Using the proper symbols, like the ℠ unregistered service marks and the ringed ℠ for registered service marks, strengthens legal safeguards and emphasizes the mark's exclusivity concerning the services provided.

service mark symbol

How the Public interprets Trademark and Service Mark Symbols

The public's understanding of service mark vs. trademark symbols frequently differs depending on the knowledge of various forms of intellectual property protection. Trademark symbols are more readily recognized because they are associated with consumer goods, whereas the general public may know service mark symbols less widely. However, symbols are essential for indicating who owns something and preserving the unique character and caliber of the corresponding products and services.


Learn more about The Power of Symbols!

Protection and Enforcement

Trademarks are protected by law, including the owners' exclusive rights to use their marks for particular goods or products. Trademark owners can defend their brand's reputation and market position by preventing others from adopting confusingly similar marks. Cases of trademark infringement are brought to protect these rights and preserve the uniqueness of the related items.

Service Mark Law Protections

Similarly, service mark owners have the sole right to use the mark in connection with the particular services they offer, thanks to legal safeguards for such marks. This protection keeps the owner's services distinct and avoids consumer confusion. If their marks are being used without permission, owners of service mark symbols may pursue legal action to protect their reputation and brand in the services sector.

Examples of Cases Showing the Value of Differentiating Between the Two

Frequently, cases showing the value of differentiating between service marks and trademarks center on the possibility of customer confusion. A situation where a business utilizes a mark registered for services (a service mark) in connection with goods and creates a conflict with another business's registered trademark for comparable goods is one example of how important this distinction is.


These instances highlight how important it is to distinguish clearly between trademarks and service marks to prevent misunderstanding in the marketplace and safeguard the interests of both consumers and companies.

Disparities Across International Borders

Different jurisdictions have laws about international trademarks, which affect registration requirements, protection scope, and enforcement methods. Variations in trademark laws can include different filing requirements, criteria for examination, and how non-traditional marks are handled. As a result, it is essential to fully comprehend and abide by the rules of each relevant jurisdiction.


service mark symbol

Divergences in the Law of International Service Marks

Similar variations in international service mark legislation may impact registration and protection of service-related branding elements. Differences in the acceptance of service mark symbols, the requirements for registration eligibility, and the enforcement of rights can lead to complications for companies that operate globally or want to expand their services into other nations.

Things to Think About for International Branding Plans

Businesses must consider the subtleties of international trademark and service mark legislation when developing their worldwide branding strategies. This entails conducting in-depth research on target market legal requirements and cultural perceptions of branding, modifying marks to accommodate regional linguistic and cultural sensitivities, and creating enforcement plans considering various legal frameworks.


Obtaining protection for trademarks and service mark symbols across numerous nations can also be streamlined by utilizing international treaties and agreements, such as the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks.

The Bottom Line

So, what is the difference between a service mark and a trademark? These terms differ based on how they are applied to different products and services and by the symbols used to indicate that they are protected. Service marks are used for intangible services, whereas trademarks are connected to tangible goods. Trademark symbols (™ and ®) indicate ownership and protection under intellectual property laws; service mark symbols (℠ and the encircling ℠) are used differently.


Companies and brands must comprehend and follow the laws about trademarks and service mark symbols. When these privileges are utilized, they can increase buyer trust, reinforce brand mindfulness, and prevent unapproved use of licensed innovation. Organizations can reinforce their situation on the lookout and gain the upper hand by utilizing a brand name and administration decisively marking insurance and grasping the lawful qualifications!


Unlock the potential of your designs and safeguard your brand's identity with MDGR Law, which can help you determine the best action to take to protect your brand.  They can guide you through the trademark or service mark application process, ensuring your slogan is properly secured.


Get a free consultation now!


What is the fundamental difference between a service mark and a trademark?

The primary distinction lies in their application: a trademark represents a product, while a service mark symbol denotes a service a business offers.

Can a single business have both a trademark and a service mark?

Yes, a company that offers goods and services can register a trademark for its products and a service mark for its offered services.

Do service marks and trademarks offer similar protections?

Yes, both types of marks provide legal protection, with the key difference being the nature of what they represent—goods (trademark) or services (service mark).

How are service marks and trademarks identified in practice?

In practice, service marks are often denoted with the symbol "SM" or the encircled "SM," while trademarks use the symbols "TM" for unregistered marks and ® for registered marks.

Are the legal implications for infringement similar for service marks and trademarks?

Yes, service marks and trademarks are protected under intellectual property laws, enabling owners to take legal action against unauthorized use or infringement.

Can a word, phrase, symbol, or logo be used as a service mark and a trademark?

Indeed, a mark can represent both the goods (trademark) and services (service mark) provided by a business, depending on the context of its usage.


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