Service Mark

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to Service Mark: collective mark

Service Mark

A trademark that is used in connection with services.

Businesses use service marks to identify their services and distinguish them from other services provided in the same field. Service marks consist of letters, words, symbols, and other devices that help inform consumers about the origin or source of a particular service. Roto-Rooter is an example of a service mark used by a familiar plumbing company. Trademarks, by contrast, are used to distinguish competing products, not services. Whereas trademarks are normally affixed to goods by means of a tag or label, service marks are generally displayed through advertising and promotion.

Service marks are regulated by the law of Unfair Competition. At the federal level, service mark infringement is governed by the lanham trademark act of 1946 (15 U.S.C.A. § 1051 et. seq.). At the state level, service mark infringement is governed by analogous Intellectual Property statutes that have been enacted in many jurisdictions. In some states service mark infringement may give rise to a Cause of Action under the Common Law. Because service marks are a particular type of trademark, the substantive and procedural rules governing both types of marks are fundamentally the same.

The rights to a service mark may be acquired in two ways. First, a business can register the mark with the government. Most service marks are eligible for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Several state governments have separate registration requirements. Once a service mark has been registered, the law typically affords protection to the first mark filed with the government. Second, a business may acquire rights to a service mark through public use. However, a mark must be held out to the public regularly and continuously before it will receive legal protection. Sporadic or irregular use of a service mark will not insulate it from infringement.

To receive protection, a service mark must also be unique, unusual, or distinctive. Common, ordinary, and generic marks rarely qualify for protection. For example, a professional association of physicians could never acquire exclusive rights to register a service mark under the name "Health Care Services." Such a mark does little to distinguish the services provided by the business and tells consumers nothing about the health Care practitioners involved. The law would give full legal protection to these same doctors, however, if they applied for a mark under the name "Snap and Jerk Chiropractic Services."

Once a business has established a vested right in a service mark, the law forbids other businesses from advertising their services with deceptively similar marks. Service mark infringement occurs when a particular mark is easily confused with other marks already established in the same trade and geographic market. Greater latitude is given when businesses that share similar marks are in unrelated fields or offer services in different consumer markets. For example, a court would be more inclined to allow two businesses to share the same mark when one business provides pest control services in urban areas, while the other provides film developing services in rural areas.

Two remedies are available for service mark infringement: injunctive relief (court orders restraining defendants from infringing on a plaintiff's service mark), and money damages (compensation for any losses suffered by an injured business). Both remedies are normally available whether a claim for infringement is pursued under state or federal law. However, the Lanham Act allows an injured business to recover significantly greater damages for infringement of a federally registered mark than it could recover under comparable state legislation.

Service marks protect the good will and reputation earned by businesses that have invested time, energy, and money in bringing quality services to the public. Service marks also encourage competition by requiring businesses to associate their marks with the quality of services they offer. In this way service marks function as a barometer of quality upon which consumers may rely when making decisions to purchase. However, service marks are often infringed, and consumers grow leery when inferior services are passed off as a competitor's through use of a deceptively similar mark. Thus legal protection of service marks can save consumers from making improvident expenditures for services of dubious or unknown origin.


Consumer Protection; Trademarks.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

service mark

n. a word, name or symbol (or a combination) which identifies a person's services from any others, similar to a trademark which identifies the maker of a product. Example: Chet's Chimney Service is identified by an elf covered with soot holding a broom, with a big "C" on the elf's chest. That is Chet's service mark, which belongs to him. Like a trademark a service mark can be registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect it. (See: trademark)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Maloney, in his filing, argued that the use of the apple in Hogan's campaign materials is not the same as the union's service mark. Hogan's materials include a red colored representation of the fruit with the phrase "Teachers for Hogan" as well as an apple shape that replaces the "o" in Hogan's name on bumper stickers.
Trademarks and service marks can include any word, name, symbol, or device used by a person to identify and distinguish his or her goods or services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods or services.
You have a service mark, not a monopoly on public expression and political endorsement by teachers."
The Observer formally registered "Best of Dallas" as a service mark last September, and maintains a "Best of Dallas" archive on its own Web site.
Registration for trademark and service mark holders will commence on July 25th, 2001.
Under ICANN rules, cybersquatting cases -- where one party abuses another party's rights by holding a domain name that is confusingly similar to the other party's trademark or service mark -- will be resolved by a mandatory administrative hearing administered by the National Arbitration Forum or by WIPO.
The Bishkek police patrol service marks 39 years today.
The introduction of this new all-jet service marks a new milestone in our operations between Manila and Caticlan, the country's gateway to Boracay,' said PALex President Bonifacio Sam.
Trade names referenced are the service marks, trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective manufacturers in Canada and/or other countries.
The service marks the rededication of the Cenotaph as a Field of Remembrance ahead of Sunday's Remembrance service.
President Almazbek Atambayev signed a law on amendments and additions to the law on trademarks, service marks, and designation of origin on February 6, Tazabek reported citing the press service of the President.
The service marked the tenth anniversary of the formation of the charity and readings were given by relatives of the ten officers.

Full browser ?