Trademarks and Service Marks are a part of everyday commerce. A Trademark is a word, a name or a symbol used in trade with goods, which both indicate the source of the goods and distinguish them from others. A Service Mark is the same as a Trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service, rather than a product. Coke® is a nationally recognized Trademark. "The bank you keep for life"sm is a Service Mark of Newtown Savings Bank. Both Coca Cola and Newtown Savings Bank have registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and can use symbols denoting federal registration.
A federal registration does not establish Trademark status for either goods or services. That status comes from use in commerce. If Coca Cola did not use Coke®, it would not have or be able to maintain priority over all other users. Federal registration of Trademarks and Service Marks is not for everyone. Businesses that use a unique name to identify a product can add the letters tm after the name to indicate the Trademark rights claimed. The letters can prove to be a deterrent for unauthorized use.
Anyone contemplating promoting a product or service nationally, or even regionally, should consider federal registration. It provides added protection and can help establish priority.
Unfortunately, the process of obtaining a federally registered Trademark or Service Mark is slow. The process can easily take two years. At the present time, it takes close to six months before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will even look at an application. Additional information about Trademarks can be found at www.uspto.gov. The Patent and Trademark Office maintains a comprehensive and informative site.