Today (and for the next little while), let’s talk about your trademarks. If you have been working on something or you are planning to build something, you need to understand the value of your intellectual property. More than that, you need to understand the best way to protect it. Today, we are going to unpack the different types of marks you may have in your business.
Today, we will discuss the distinction between a Trademark and a Service Mark. They are really the same thing, the difference is about delineating what your business sells.
A Trademark is a word, phrase, or other graphic symbol used to show the source of goods or products. The Nike Swoosh is a Trademark. It tells you that the shoes, shirts, or other athletic equipment is from Nike (a brand you know and trust).
A Service Mark is a word, phrase, or other graphic symbol used to show the source of services. That means, law firm logos, grounds maintenance companies have service marks.
Sometimes, there is a blending of the two if your company offers services and products. In that instance, it is important to know that the distinction is more about what you are protecting than it is a cemented idea about your mark. More on that next week.
So, first, let’s determine if you are selling a service or a product. Nowadays, this has become a slightly more difficult exercise than it once was. Now, you have things like Software as a Service (SAAS) and people who sell their services packaged as products (which seems to be the new trend). Then, you also have content marketing, which can be viewed as a service, though it sells a product, so what do you sell?
A product is something that can consumed or used. Traditionally, it is was something tangible or manufactured, but now it can also include electronic items (e,g, e-books, e-courses, electronic downloads). The main idea is that it can be consumed. You purchase a product to use it.
Services, on the other hand, are intangible. Services are the result of human effort, skill, or advice.
Clear as mud, right?
Let’s unpack this further.
I am a lawyer. Clearly, I offer services through my law firm. The services I offer include: contract drafting, advice, analysis, research, and other efforts I have to put out. But, what about the contracts I create, the templates my clients use every day. Aren’t those products?
In short, no.
The product produced through the human service is ancillary to the service. The question is: What did you pay for? If you paid for the service of creating, the company is selling services.
So, even if you are a content marketer who produces content on a regular basis, the question is what are you paid for? That is how you determine what you sell.
Do you receive compensation for what you create or for the process you use when you create?
- Do you sell e-books, but create content for you blog for free? You are selling a product.
- Do you ghost-write e-books for other authors who then use your content to package into their own product? You are selling a service.
- Do you create websites for people? You are selling a service.
- Do you create website templates that you sell to people to use themselves? You are selling a product.
So, what do you create? What are you paid to do? Hit reply and tell me about it! (I really want to know!)
Take some time this week to determine whether you are selling a product or a service.
In an effort to keep you from having too much to think about, we will stop there with that one determination to make.
I will talk to you next week, unless you talk to me first 😉
P.S. Next week, we will jump into what type of protection you need for your mark. There are three primary levels of protection for your mark:
Common Law Rights
State Law Rights
Each level protects the mark in a different way. Each level builds on the one before it. So, think about it as building a pyramid, but the pyramid is upside down. More on that next week!