Today, people associate businesses with their logos, which have become an important part of their brand images. This is because these logos grab the attention of the audience, make a strong and characteristic first impression, and are much more memorable than your brand name.
They become the foundation of your brand identity and go a long way to encourage brand loyalty by separating you from your competition. Your business logo conveys your values and highlights how you are better than your competition. Generally, all businesses manufacturing or selling products have trademarks, so why should a service-oriented business lag behind?
What Is a Service Mark?
A brand name or a logo that identifies a service is known as a service mark. These service marks are used to distinguish between the services provided by many businesses and, therefore, serve the same purpose as a trademark. It can consist of certain words, symbols, signs, marks, designs, or phrases, or combinations of these.
These service marks are intangible assets of a business that form part of intellectual property protection because they protect the business’s services from competing businesses using names that may confuse customers.These service marks are legally binding as they carry infringement rights and can prevent the theft of intellectual property under the law and provide monetary compensation to the owner of the mark.
How Does a Service Mark Work?
A “service” is an intangible professional support that certain businesses provide to their clients. Unlike goods that can be touched and handled, services are only rendered for the benefit of the customers. For example, a beauty parlor providing beauty services to its clients, an audit firm providing tax consultancy services, etc. Thus, a service firm provides a non-physical benefit to another party.
Just like a trademark, a service mark can carry the standard registered symbol ® if it is federally registered or use the symbol SM before the registration. After the service mark is registered, the business gets infringement rights for the same, and if another person tries to imitate the service mark or steal the intellectual property it protects, then that business can enforce monetary compensation from that person.
Registration of Service Marks
A service mark for doing business in any field, whether at a local or national level, must be unique and significantly different from the service marks of any other company within that jurisdiction; otherwise, it will be rejected by the Trademark Office. The uniqueness and originality of all service marks are checked through trademark research and trademark infringement analysis.
The important tasks involved in getting a service mark registered can be stated as follows:
- creation of a unique service mark
- Searching for and analyzing that uniqueness within India
- Preparing and applying for registration of the service mark with the zonal trademark office
- Official examination and verification of facts
- Removing and rectifying the drawbacks in the service mark
- Solving cases of opposition, if any, and
- Making an expert decision regarding the registration
The Trademark Offices go through the database of all the service marks registered to check whether the application of a new service mark coincides with any of the existing ones. If the service mark is not unique, it will be rejected.
Filing an Application for Registration
There are five regional trademark offices situated in Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, and Ahmedabad. All of these offices are concerned with performing and regulating the registration of trademarks and service marks under the provisions of the Trade Marks Act of 1999 and the Trade Marks Rules of 2002. An applicant can apply for a service mark in any of these regional offices near his place of business using form TM-1.The important documents that are required to be submitted along with the application are as follows:
- A soft copy of the service mark in the JPEG format
- Fee for Prescribed Registration
- Necessary details about the applicant company and its business
- Information about the trademark agent or lawyer
- Power of Attorney
- Information about the service mark, along with its class
- date of the first use of the service mark
- Priority Documents
- other documents as prescribed.
Procedure for Registration
Upon receipt of the application, the regional office examines the contents of the application and verifies the documents furnished. Then, an analysis is made to see if the service mark provided corresponds to or closely resembles the registered service marks.
If anything is incorrect, then it informs the applicant about the faults so they can get those drawbacks removed. After the rectification of these drawbacks, the application gets published in the Indian Trade Marks Journal for three months. This is done to notify the owners of previously registered service marks in India about the new service marks.
If they have any objections to the new service mark, they can file them in Form TM-5. These objections are then resolved through explanatory discussions among the applicant, opponent, and judicial members of the Opposition Board. After these objections are resolved, the registration is duly complete, and the applicant can now use the symbol ® instead of the symbol SM.
Time Taken and Costs Incurred in the Registration
Normally, the entire process of registration spans one year. In cases of conflict, however, the time span could be expected to be much longer because of discussions, conflict resolution, and so on. The prescribed fee for applying for the registration of trademarks is INR 3500. This is a blanket rate for all the classes of trademarks.
Validity of a Service Mark
A registered service mark is valid for a period of ten years from the date of registration. After this period, the company is required to further renew the service marks to avail itself of all the rights granted by the trademark authorities throughout India.
In cases of timely renewal, that is, before the expiry of the given period of ten years, Form TM-12 is required to be filed along with the renewal fee of INR 5,000. In cases of late renewal, however, certain penalties are charged that can include a surcharge of INR 3000 over and above the renewal fee in Form TM-10.
Examples of Service Marks
It is a common mistake to get confused between trademarks and service marks, where the former is used for goods and the latter is used for services. Certain companies, like Amazon, use both trademarks and service marks because they deal with both goods and services. The real-world examples of service marks include the tagline of United Airlines (“Fly the Friendly Skies”), the tagline of Nike (“Just Do It”), and the logos of McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc.
FAQs on Service Mark
What are service marks in India?
Service marks are brand names or logos used to identify a service provider, and they can be a word, design, or symbol. Service marks are a sort of intellectual property and an intangible asset provided for the benefit of another.
How do you note a service mark?
The service mark should be used as an adjective after a noun or generic name for the service itself.
What is the difference between a trademark and a service mark?
A trademark is a word, symbol, phrase, or design that recognizes and differentiates one party’s source of goods from those of others. A service mark (or servicemark) is a word, symbol, phrase, or design that recognizes and differentiates the source of a service as opposed to goods.
Does a service mark need to be registered?
A service mark, like a trademark, does not need to be registered. The use of the mark sets up common law rights. However, in the event of a lawsuit and a claim for damages, a federal registration might offer the owner more advantages.
Do service marks expire?
A federal trademark has 10-year renewal terms after its initial 10-year registration period. The registrant is required to submit an affidavit confirming that the mark is still in use between the fifth and sixth years following the registration date.
Service marks and trademarks have become important factors in businesses because every successful business serves to invite other businesses to imitate its products or services. In such a scenario, the customers get confused between real and imitated products or services, thereby eroding the market share of the real company. A service mark or a trademark can therefore protect the company and can serve as a means for customer identification.