What is a “trademark” or “service mark”?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A “trademark” is a word, name or symbol which is used to identify particular products or services offer by a particular manufacturer or from a particular source.

The trademark distinguishes and authenticates a product of a particular manufacturer from similar products offered by others. The owner of a Trademark has the right to prevent others from using the same or similar trademark on their products.

A “service mark” is a form of trademark that is used in the sale or advertising of services. The service mark distinguishes the services offered by one business from similar services offered by other businesses.

Both trademarks and service marks can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office – and states can regulate trademarks and service marks used within the particular state.

A mark is not eligible to be registered if it is:

(a) immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter,

(b) flag of coat of arms or other insignia of the United States, or of any state, municipality, or foreign nation,

(c) a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except with that individual’s written consent, or the name, signature or portrait of a deceased President of the United States during the life of the President’s spouse, except with the spouse’s written consent,

(d) a mark that resembles one already registered that is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception,

(e) a mark that is merely descriptive, or a deceptive mis-description, of goods, or primarily a geographical description or deceptive geographical mis-description of goods, or a surname – unless the mark has become distinctive of the applicant’s goods in commerce.

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