If a Florida company provides excellent goods or services to its customers, competitors may eventually attempt to apply the “copycat” strategy and imitate different aspects of that successful business, especially the brand’s identity.
In this article, you will understand the difference between trademarks and service marks in Florida.
What is the Difference Between a Trademark and a Service Mark in Florida? – The Verdict
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines the term “trademark” as any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things used to identify the source of goods or services.
When consumers look at a product, they need a mark to distinguish it from other brands. The same concept is applied to service providers, which need to indicate the source or origin of their services.
The terms “trademark” and “service mark” are often used interchangeably, which is not wrong at the end of the day. The difference is that a service mark is used to identify the source of a service rather than goods.
Both trademarks and service marks are protected under the Lanham Act, the primary federal trademark statute that prohibits any type of trademark infringement, dilution, and false advertising.
Trademarks vs. Service Marks in Florida – Do I Need to Registration to Shield Trademarks Against Counterfeiting?
The ownership rights over a specific trademark or service mark come from its actual use in business. These rights are established from the first date of use of a specific mark on a company’s goods or services.
A trademark that is used in a legitimate business but is not registered is referred to as a “common law trademark.”
Owning a common law trademark or service mark allows the owner of the mark to file a lawsuit against another party for infringement. The main difference is common law trademarks or service marks have limited rights compared to registered marks.
Trademark and Service Mark Registration in Florida – What You Need to Know
Whether you want to register a trademark or service mark in Florida, there are two options available – filing for federal registration with the USPTO or filing for state registration with the Florida Department of State (Division of Corporations).
Registering in Florida allows you to protect a business mark within state jurisdiction. In terms of priority, federal trademarks supersede marks registered with the state only.
The first step is to verify whether the use of the mark would not result in a “likelihood of confusion” with other existing marks. With the help of an expert attorney, it is possible to conduct a search in different databases to check whether your preferred mark is already trademarked or in use.
If the mark is available, you can fill out the application forms. The applicant must file the mark under the name of the owner. If the owner is a business entity, the applicant must specify the type of entity (e.g., corporation, limited liability company, etc.).
The application must include a description of the applicant’s goods or services, a drawing of the mark, and a demonstration of how the mark is used in goods or services, including advertising materials and specimen featuring the mark.
You can apply online or by mail with the applicable fee. The timeframe involved in the registration process requires up to six weeks to complete in Florida.