A service mark is a piece of intellectual property that is similar to a trademark. A trademark is a word, image, or phrase that identifies a particular company or product. Trademarks are used in connection with commercial products, whereas service marks identify services offered by businesses.
Service marks can be federally registered just like trademarks. In order to be registered, the service mark must be distinguishable enough from other marks and specifically described so as to link that particular service with the company. It must also generally identify the types of services being rendered and be used by the company “in commerce.”
Since there is generally no product packaging to place a service mark on, they are typically placed on:
- Service uniforms
- Forms, documents, and receipts
- Company vehicles, such as delivery or transport vehicles
What Is Service Mark Infringement?
Service mark infringement occurs when a person or business entity knowingly uses a protected service mark for gain or profit. This can happen in several different ways, including:
- Intentionally creating a service mark that is intended to confuse the public into believing that the mark is from an existing company due to its similarity to a mark being used by that company
- Actual theft of an existing service mark
- Taking items such as ads, uniforms, or forms that contain service marks and altering them, while leaving the mark intact, in order to use them for profitable gain
- Gaining access to a service mark and then using it for an unauthorized purpose
Service mark infringement laws are similar to those for trademark infringement. Specific requirements for proving service mark infringement may depend on several factors, including:
- The type of services and business involved
- The nature of the relationship between the service mark holder and the defendant
- Whether there is a contract or legal agreement between the parties
- Industry standards and practices for that type of service
What Are the Remedies for Service Mark Infringement Violations?
Service mark infringement is a serious legal violation and can lead to strict legal consequences, which are similar to those for trademark infringement. These possible consequences include a monetary damages award, which is intended to compensate the service mark holder for loss of profits, legal fees, and other costs. Other common remedies include injunctions and cease/desist orders from the court.
In addition, it is common for criminal charges to be filed against a person for infringement. This can lead to further consequences, such as jail time and additional criminal fines.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Service Mark Infringement Issues?
Intellectual property issues like service mark infringement or trademark infringement can often be complex, and can involve a mix of several legal concepts. You may need to hire an intellectual property lawyer in your area if you need any legal advice or assistance with infringement laws. Your attorney can provide you with legal research and can represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit. Also, if you have any specific inquiries or concerns, your lawyer can provide advice on the best way to proceed.