It is very common to find policies that prevent individuals and organizations from making use of any trademarks or service marks of another company. Since a trademark is a familiar term, the first part of the statement above would be easily understood. However, the term “service mark” on its part might not be that familiar. Nevertheless, it plays very important roles as much as a trademark does.
What is a service mark?
A service mark could be a symbol, phrase, word, or logo that is used by an individual or an organization to distinguish, identify, and brand a service. In contrast, a trademark is a symbol, word, phrase or logo that is used by an individual or organization to identify, distinguish and brand their product.
So in a simple language, if a business provides a service, then a service mark will be needed while if it sells a product, then a trademark will be employed to brand and distinguish it. Although this might be easy enough to understand, however, there are still a few intricacies to explain.
For instance, a retail store or restaurant that deals in physical items still requires a service mark to distinguish its services. Some example of a restaurant that employs a registered service mark is McDonald the same goes for Walmart which is a registered service mark for its services in retailing.
However, if a business involves the selling of clothing products or a line of jewelry products, then a trademark will be required for the product line. A common line of jewelry products that employs a registered trademark is Tiffany & Co. while Nike is a registered trademark for a line of clothing and footwear products.
The Service mark Symbol
The appropriate symbol of a trademark is TM, however, this can only happen if the trademark is not registered federally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) while a service mark logo would be SM as the appropriate symbol. In other words, if a product is provided under a particular logo or name, the TM symbol may be used to signify that the company is claiming trademark rights. However, the SM symbol should be used for the same purpose to signify that instead of a product, the company provides a service.
A company owner should be more concerned with the registration of his mark than whether the company has got a trademark or a service mark.