trademark

Trademark and Service Mark FAQ

What is a trademark or service mark?
A Michigan trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination thereof, used to identify an individual or business’ products and goods, and which is used to distinguish them from similar products and goods made or sold by all other individuals and companies within the State of Michigan.

In contrast, a Michigan service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination thereof, used to identify an individual or business’ services, and which is used to distinguish them from similar services provided by all other individuals and companies within the State of Michigan.

How are trademarks and service marks used?
Because trademarks cover goods, trademarks typically appear on the products and goods themselves, including on their packaging.  On the other hand, service marks, which cover services provided, normally appear on advertising, marketing and promotional materials for providers of services.

Why have a trademark or service mark?
A registered trademark or service mark provides notice to the public of an individual or business’ ownership of that mark.  A registered trademark or service mark also creates a legal presumption of the registrant’s ownership of that mark and gives the registrant the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the products, goods or services set forth in the registration.  It further creates a right to bring a lawsuit for infringement if another individual or business uses the mark once registered.

Registering one’s trademark or service mark safeguards the recognition of one’s products, goods or services against those of their competitors.  This protection is important in building and maintaining one’s brand, goodwill and reputation.

However, it is only upon the issuance of a Certificate of Registration, in Michigan by the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, and federally by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, that an individual or business registrant officially obtains ownership of the trademark or service mark.  Notably, ownership of one’s mark is not infinite.  For both Michigan and Federal trademarks and service marks, initial ownership is for a period of ten years, with the registrant having the ability to request renewal prior to the mark’s expiration.

Michigan versus Federal Registration.
Importantly, registration of a trademark or service mark in Michigan provides notice of the registrant’s ownership to others solely within the State of Michigan, and thus will only provide some protection against infringement, as Michigan registration is only for statewide protection and use within the State.

For more extended protection, and protection outside Michigan, Federal registration of one’s trademark or service mark is available.  Federal trademarks and service marks are defined similarly to Michigan trademarks and service marks.  However, Federal registration of a trademark or service mark is only available for marks that are, or will be used in interstate commerce, and the application process is more intensive.  Thus, for a business planning to operate only within this State, registration solely in Michigan may be proper.  Although, this is a decreasing phenomenon due to e-commerce.

Experience Matters
During her career, Attorney Cara L. Galbavi has filed numerous Federal and Michigan trademark and service mark applications for varying clients, from individual sole proprietors to LLCs and corporate clients throughout West Michigan.  She has also assisted her clients in the maintenance and renewal of their marks.  Thus, if you or your business is interested in learning more about trademarks or service marks, their creation, maintenance or renewal, contact Attorney Galbavi for a consultation.