Trademarks and Service Marks


14 July 2021

By Josh Fresle

Trademarks and service marks are similar mechanisms and therefore often confused.

Trademarks are used to identify business products. They include words, logos, symbols, shapes, packaging and other devices which are intended to be used to identify and distinguish one business's products from another's. Generally, trademarks are used to brand specific products, appearing on the products themselves.

A service mark is a similar mechanism to a trademark, however it is used to distinguish business services rather than products. Like trademarks, service marks can take various different forms but are often in the form of slogans. Service marks typically appear in advertisements for particular services offered by a business.

In practice, trademarks and service marks are often intertwined within a business as many companies offer both goods and services. McDonald's is a good example of this. McDonald's itself provides a fast food service and has a service mark, but also has trademarks over various products including the Big Mac. The golden arch "M" logo is also a trademark.

Although trademarks and service marks can be used in the UK without registration, an unregistered mark offers little to no legal protection. Registered trademarks and service marks offer substantial rights and protection to a business's brand and allow them to take legal action against someone using their brand without permission.In order to protect your own trademark or service mark, you must apply to the Intellectual Property Office to have your trademark or service mark registered in the UK. A successful application will allow you to legally mark your brand with the ® symbol. This process will only provide protection to your brand in the UK and there are different processes in place for registering your trademark or service mark in the EU or internationally.

Applications for the registration of trademarks and service marks are approved on a first come first served basis. Before applying you will need to carry out a trademark search to ensure there is no one with the same or similar branding already registered in your relevant class. There are 45 classes divided in relation to industry/area of business and in order to register your brand in multiple classes, your company will have to be relevant in those classes. It is possible for one company to have a registered trademark in one class, and another company to have the same or a similar trademark registered in a different class. If you file for registration of your mark and a similar registered mark is found to already exist, your application is likely to be revoked, resulting in a waste of time and money.