Service Mark (SM)

Posted in Marketing and Strategy Terms, Total Reads: 474
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Definition: Service Mark (SM)

In the same way that a trademark is used to uniquely identify a brand or tangible product, a service mark is used to differentiate a service. It is also protected under copyright law and has the same stature as trademark. These concepts may be used interchangeably. The difference is that the service mark is used in the advertising rather than on the packaging or delivery of the service, as would be the case with a trademark. Also, obviously, in services, there is no package on which the mark can be branded. The service mark symbol is the superscript SM. (SM)


As an example, the service carrier FedEx can paint the SM symbol on its carriers such as trucks and vans. Telecom service providers can use a particular sound as their trademark, as AT&T has done. The motion pictures major MGM is another example of this. It uses a lion’s roar. Nokia’s signature tune is another example. Service marks must also pass all the tests required of trademarks, such as the test of distinctiveness and specificity. Like trademarks, service marks distinguish that particular service from others in the market. The mark can consist of letters, pictures, symbols, etc. that denote that particular service, such as place and year of origin or the service characteristics.


Once the right to use of a service mark has been granted to a particular company by the Patents Office, other companies are forbidden from using it or similar-looking marks. Any violation of this rule would constitute a service infringement. This law is made lenient when the two companies are in highly unrelated fields of business. Service marks are a measure of quality and the level of trust invested in the company by the customer.

 

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