How to Protect Your Business and Intellectual Property

Small Biz Alert: Guarding Your Intellectual Property: Trademarks & Service Marks 101


A service mark is similar to a trademark. It’s basically a name that designates some offering of services. Trademarks are used for products and service marks are used to denote services like computer lessons, or plane trips.

Sometimes domain names can be used as trademarks, for example Bear in mind, is not a trademark, just like an address on a building is not a trademark. But if you put a design on it or next to it, it incorporates your domain name. That design can be registered as a trademark.

Simply put, it is a symbol like a word,  that can be used to associate with your particular business holding.

How effective can a strong trademark be? Kelly uses Coca Cola as an example.

“If all Coca Cola facilities companies burned down around the world, executives can walk into a bank and say we are Coca Cola give us the money to build it back. If people know who you are, your brand is going to continue on whether or not you have buildings.”

Picking the ideal trademark can be tricky.

Trademarks are usually strong, coined terms that don’t mean anything other than what you associate them with. For example, Exxon. Originally, it didn’t mean anything, but through aggressive marketing and advertising promotions, people now recognize the meaningless word as an oil company. Same thing with Kodak and Blackberry. They now stand for camera and film companies and a brand of cell phone.

They can also be suggestive, like London Fog or Pedigree for dog food. Ideally trademarks should not be descriptive, like fluffy for pillow or soft for laundry detergent.

Kelly explains why. “If that’s what you’re using to associate people with your product, they wont be associated with you. It gets associated and mixed up with the quality of the product. Sure the pillow soft, but I’m not sure who makes it.”