Difference between Trademark and Service Mark

Service Marks are often confused with trademarks. Though the registration process is similar there's a fine line which differentiates the two. This article will help clear the confusion and get a better insight into it.

Every business in the market has some identifying mark which makes it distinct from others. They often create either a name or logo as a trademark for the company and use it to market their products or services.

Based on its features, there are different types of trademarks in India which can be confusing at times. You need to know what exactly you need for your business and how you want it to be designed so that it can relate to the products or services.  

Describing a Trademark?

Trademark is a synonym to brand name and can be identified as a logo, name or a symbol which represents a particular product or service. It helps to promote your brand in the market, grab more audience and can be associated with both products and services. Everyone who wishes to start a business has to register the trademark legally.

In India, the trademark is protected under The Trademark Act 1999, by Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. This department deals with the registration, protection and renewal of trademarks and other Intellectual Property. The registration of a trademark protects the business for a more extended period.

See these examples:

  • Chanel is a brand name which is trademarked by its owner, Coco Chanel.
  • Nike is a name which is trademarked along with its tagline and logo.

Describing a Service Mark

There is a minute difference between a trademark and a service mark. A service mark is one of the different types of the trademark in which you register a service rather than a product.

It is meant for the intangible products which include working for a third party. You can register the name of your service, its logo or even a tagline. It contains services like repairing, maintenance, routine work etc. and is specifically used only for services.

For example –

  • McDonald’s is a registered service mark since it deals in restaurant services.
  • Walmart has a service mark for the retail store chain.

How to Choose the Correct Mark?

Whether it is a trademark or a service mark, you will require registering for both depending on the need of your business. In case, your business is into services than getting a service mark will be beneficial for you while in case of products you can go for a trademark.

In some cases, it happens that a company might require both. In this situation, it can be a bit confusing for other people to understand the concept behind it.

We have an example for this –

Starbucks, a leading coffee chains in the world. It is registered both as a trademark and a service mark. 

  • As a service mark – They offer exclusive coffee retail store in different parts of the world.
  • As a trademark – They have their coffee products which they sell on the market under their brand name. 

This makes it necessary to understand the difference between the two and choose what works best for your business. An incorrect choice might change the definition of your business in the market.

Registration Process

The application process for registering a service mark is similar to that of a trademark. One has to choose from the trademark class of 35-45 to define the services and 1 to 34 for products in which the applicant is doing business.

It is always suggested to check your service or trademark before applying so that it does not get rejected due to similarity with other logos or names. Once the application is examined, and no objection is received, a certificate of registration is offered. Now, e-filing is also available for the complete process which has made it less time-consuming.

What do the Different Symbols ( ™ ) , ( ® ), ( SM Mean?

Different symbols are associated with the trademark and service mark. These symbols help in defining the type of registration a product or service has.

  • TM - This symbol is often used by the new proprietors or companies who have applied for the registration of the trademark.
  • R – This stands for Registered which means that the mark is a trademark and is not supposed to be copied.
  • SM – This refers to the service marks which have been registered.

These symbols can be seen at the end of the brand name or beside any logo and stand for something specific.


The differences between these two terms often confuse many entrepreneurs, and they end up filing wrong or incorrect application. These core points might help people who are looking for a clarification amongst the two. 

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