A service mark is a trademark used to represent a service, and is commonly used in the US. If you wish to register your service mark, it is advisable to enlist the professional assistance of a trademark attorney or professional consultancy firm to ensure you complete the process in a timely and straightforward manner.
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Reasons to register a service mark
Registering a service mark provides numerous advantages for the owner of the mark, and these benefits tend to vary depending on the jurisdiction where the registration is sought. With regards to the US, a registered service mark benefits from the following:
- Right to adopt the ® symbol on the mark
- Legal protection under federal law
- Exclusive ownership rights over the service mark in the US
- Deterrence against third party infringement
- Increased brand identity and protection in the marketplace
- Prevent competitors from registering similar marks
- Gain better buyer powers
- Sponsorship opportunities
- Ability to bring a lawsuit in a Federal Court where infringement occurs
Risks of using an unregistered service mark
Owners of service marks should be aware of the risks involved should they decide not to register their mark. Most notably, owners will have no legal right over the mark at federal law level. Although using the mark in a commercial capacity will enable the owner to have certain rights at common law level, the owner cannot prevent third parties from registering similar marks in the future.
Further to this, business expansion opportunities will be more difficult if the service mark is not registered to the company. This is because the mark will only gain certain protection rights within the geographical area it is used.
Where infringement does occur, the burden will be on the owner of the unregistered mark to prove their used the mark in good faith – this is a costly and often time-consuming process. Effectively, the rights an owner of an unregistered service mark has are considerably more limited than if they owned a registered mark.