T.M.E.P. § 1301.02
What Is a Service Mark
This document contains one section of the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (the "TMEP"), Fourth Edition (April 2005). This page was last updated in June 2007. You may return to one either the section index, or to the key word index. If you wish to search the TMEP, simply use the search box that appears on the bottom of every page of BitLaw--be sure to restrict your search to the TMEP in the pop-up list.
For more information on trademark law, please see the Trademark Section of BitLaw.
1301.02 What Is a Service Mark
Not every word, combination of words, or other designation used in the sale or advertising of services is registrable as a service mark. To function as a service mark, the asserted mark must be used in a way that identifies and distinguishes the source of the services recited in the application. Even if it is clear that the applicant is rendering a service (see TMEP §§1301.01 et seq.), the record must show that the asserted mark actually identifies and distinguishes the source of the service recited in the application. In re Advertising and Marketing Development Inc., 821 F.2d 614, 2 USPQ2d 2010 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (stationery specimens showed use of THE NOW GENERATION as a mark for applicant's advertising or promotional services as well as to identify a licensed advertising campaign, where the recited services were specified in a byline appearing immediately beneath the mark).
The fact that the proposed mark appears in an advertisement or brochure in which the services are advertised does not in itself show use as a mark. The record must show that there is a direct association between the mark and the service. See In re Universal Oil Products Co., 476 F.2d 653, 177 USPQ 456 (C.C.P.A. 1973) (term that identifies only a process does not function as a service mark, even where services are advertised in the same specimen brochure in which the name of the process is used); In re Duratech Industries Inc., 13 USPQ2d 2052 (TTAB 1989) (term used on bumper sticker with no reference to the services does not function as a mark); Peopleware Systems, Inc. v. Peopleware, Inc., 226 USPQ 320 (TTAB 1985) (term PEOPLEWARE used within a byline on calling card specimen does not constitute service mark usage of term, even if specimen elsewhere shows that applicant provides the recited services); In re J.F. Pritchard & Co. and Kobe Steel, Ltd., 201 USPQ 951 (TTAB 1979) (proposed mark used only to identify a liquefaction process in brochure advertising the services does not function as a mark, because there is no direct association between mark and offering of services). See TMEP §1301.04(b).
The question of whether a designation functions as a mark that identifies and distinguishes the recited services is determined by examining the specimen(s) and any other evidence in the record that shows how the designation is used. In re Morganroth, 208 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1980); In re Republic of Austria Spanische Reitschule, 197 USPQ 494 (TTAB 1977). It is the perception of the ordinary customer that determines whether the asserted mark functions as a service mark, not the applicant's intent, hope or expectation that it do so. In re Standard Oil Co., 275 F.2d 945, 125 USPQ 227 (C.C.P.A. 1960). Factors that the examining attorney should consider in determining whether the asserted mark is used as a service mark include whether wording is physically separate from textual matter, whether a term is displayed in capital letters or enclosed in quotation marks, and the manner in which a term is used in relation to other material on the specimen.
While a service mark does not have to be displayed in any particular size or degree of prominence, it must be used in a way that makes a commercial impression separate and apart from the other elements of the advertising matter or other material upon which it is used, such that the designation will be recognized by prospective purchasers as a source identifier. In re C.R. Anthony Co., 3 USPQ2d 1894 (TTAB 1987); In re Post Properties, Inc., 227 USPQ 334 (TTAB 1985). The proposed mark must not blend so well with other matter on specimens that it is difficult or impossible to discern what the mark is. In re McDonald's Corp., 229 USPQ 555 (TTAB 1985); In re Royal Viking Line A/S, 216 USPQ 795 (TTAB 1982); In re Republic of Austria Spanische Reitschule, supra; Ex parte National Geographic Society, 83 USPQ 260 (Comm'r Pats. 1949). On the other hand, the fact that the proposed mark is prominently displayed does not in and of itself make it registrable, if it is not used in a manner that would be perceived by consumers as an indicator of source. In re Wakefern Food Corp., 222 USPQ 76 (TTAB 1984). The important question is not how readily a mark will be noticed but whether, when noticed, it will be understood as identifying and indicating the origin of the services. In re Singer Mfg. Co., 255 F.2d 939, 118 USPQ 310 (C.C.P.A. 1958).
The presence of the "SM" symbol is not dispositive of the issue of whether matter sought to be registered is used as a service mark. In re British Caledonian Airways Ltd., 218 USPQ 737 (TTAB 1983).
See TMEP §1301.02(a) for further information about matter that does not function as a service mark.
See TMEP §§1301.01 et seq. regarding what constitutes a service.
See TMEP §§1301.04 et seq. regarding service mark specimens.
1301.02(a) Matter That Does Not Function as a Service Mark
To function as a service mark, a designation must be used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying and distinguishing the source of the services recited in the application.
Use of a designation or slogan to convey advertising or promotional information, rather than to identify and indicate the source of the services, is not service mark use. See In re Standard Oil Co., 275 F.2d 945, 125 USPQ 227 (C.C.P.A. 1960) (GUARANTEED STARTING found to be ordinary words that convey information about the services, not a service mark for the services of "winterizing" motor vehicles); In re Melville Corp., 228 USPQ 970 (TTAB 1986) (BRAND NAMES FOR LESS found to be informational phrase that does not function as a mark for retail store services); In re Brock Residence Inns, Inc., 222 USPQ 920 (TTAB 1984) (FOR A DAY, A WEEK, A MONTH OR MORE so highly descriptive and informational in nature that purchasers would be unlikely to perceive it as an indicator of the source of hotel services); In re Wakefern Food Corp., 222 USPQ 76 (TTAB 1984) (WHY PAY MORE found to be a common commercial phrase that does not serve to identify grocery store services); In re Gilbert Eiseman, P.C., 220 USPQ 89 (TTAB 1983) (IN ONE DAY not used as source identifier but merely as a component of advertising matter that conveyed a characteristic of applicant's plastic surgery services); In re European-American Bank & Trust Co., 201 USPQ 788 (TTAB 1979) (slogan THINK ABOUT IT found to be an informational or instructional phrase that would not be perceived as a mark for banking services); In re Restonic Corp., 189 USPQ 248 (TTAB 1975) (phrase used merely to advertise goods manufactured and sold by applicant's franchisees does not serve to identify franchising services). Cf. In re Post Properties, Inc., 227 USPQ 334 (TTAB 1985) (the designation QUALITY SHOWS, set off from text of advertising copy in extremely large typeface and reiterated at the conclusion of the narrative portion of the ad, held to be a registrable service mark for applicant's real estate management and leasing services, because it was used in a way that made a commercial impression separate from that of the other elements of advertising material upon which it was used, such that the designation would be recognized by prospective customers as a source identifier). See also TMEP §1202.04 regarding informational matter that does not function as a trademark.
A term that is used only to identify a product, device or instrument sold or used in the performance of a service rather than to identify the service itself does not function as a service mark. See In re Moody's Investors Service Inc., 13 USPQ2d 2043 (TTAB 1989) ("Aaa," as used on the specimens, found to identify the applicant's ratings instead of its rating services); In re Niagara Frontier Services, Inc., 221 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1983) (WE MAKE IT, YOU BAKE IT only identifies pizza, and does not function as a service mark to identify grocery store services); In re British Caledonian Airways Ltd., 218 USPQ 737 (TTAB 1983) (term that identifies a seat in the first class section of an airplane does not function as mark for air transportation services); In re Editel Productions, Inc., 189 USPQ 111 (TTAB 1975) (MINI-MOBILE identifies only a vehicle used in rendering services and does not serve to identify the production of television videotapes for others); In re Oscar Mayer & Co. Inc., 171 USPQ 571 (TTAB 1971) (WIENERMOBILE does not function as mark for advertising and promoting the sale of wieners, where it is used only to identify a vehicle used in rendering claimed services).
Similarly, a term that only identifies a process, style, method, or system used in rendering the services is not registrable as a service mark unless it is also used to identify and distinguish the service. See TMEP §1301.02(e) and cases cited therein.
A term that only identifies a menu item does not function as a mark for restaurant services. In re El Torito Restaurant Inc., 9 USPQ2d 2002 (TTAB 1988).
The name or design of a character or person does not function as a service mark unless it identifies and distinguishes the services in addition to identifying the character or person. See TMEP §1301.02(b) and cases cited therein.
A term used only as a trade name is not registrable as a service mark. See In re Signal Companies, Inc., 228 USPQ 956 (TTAB 1986) (journal advertisement submitted as specimen showed use of ONE OF THE SIGNAL COMPANIES merely as an informational slogan, where words appeared only in small, subdued typeface underneath the address and telephone number of applicant's subsidiary). See TMEP §1202.01 for additional information about matter used solely as a trade name.
Matter that is merely ornamental in nature does not function as a service mark. See In re Tad's Wholesale, Inc., 132 USPQ 648 (TTAB 1962) (wallpaper design not registrable as a service mark for restaurant services). See TMEP §1202.03 et seq. for additional information about ornamentation.
See TMEP §1202.02(b)(ii) regarding trade dress.
1301.02(b) Names of Characters or Personal Names as Service Marks
Under 15 U.S.C. 1127, a name or design of a character does not function as a service mark unless it identifies and distinguishes services in addition to identifying the character. If the name or design is used only to identify the character, it is not registrable as a service mark. In re Hechinger Investment Co. of Delaware Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1053 (TTAB 1991) (design of dog appearing in advertisement does not function as mark for retail hardware and housewares services); In re McDonald's Corp., 229 USPQ 555 (TTAB 1985) (APPLE PIE TREE does not function as mark for restaurant services, where the specimens show use of mark only to identify one character in a procession of characters); In re Whataburger Systems, Inc., 209 USPQ 429 (TTAB 1980) (design of zoo animal character distributed to restaurant customers in the form of an iron-on patch not used in a manner that would be perceived as an indicator of source); In re Burger King Corp., 183 USPQ 698 (TTAB 1974) (fanciful design of king does not serve to identify and distinguish restaurant services).
Similarly, personal names (actual names and pseudonyms) of individuals or groups function as marks only if they identify and distinguish the services recited and not merely the individual or group. In re Mancino, 219 USPQ 1047 (TTAB 1983) (holding that BOOM BOOM would be viewed by the public solely as applicant's professional boxing nickname and not as an identifier of the service of conducting professional boxing exhibitions); In re Lee Trevino Enterprises, Inc., 182 USPQ 253 (TTAB 1974) (LEE TREVINO used merely to identify a famous professional golfer rather than as a mark to identify and distinguish any services rendered by him); In re Generation Gap Products, Inc., 170 USPQ 423 (TTAB 1971) (GORDON ROSE used only to identify a particular individual and not as a service mark to identify the services of a singing group).
The name of a character or person is registrable as a service mark if the record shows that it is used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying the services in addition to the character or person. In re Florida Cypress Gardens Inc., 208 USPQ 288 (TTAB 1980) (name CORKY THE CLOWN used on handbills found to function as a mark to identify live performances by a clown, where the mark was used to identify not just the character but also the act or entertainment service performed by the character); In re Carson, 197 USPQ 554 (TTAB 1977) (individual's name held to function as mark, where specimens showed use of the name in conjunction with a reference to services and information as to the location and times of performances, costs of tickets, and places where tickets could be purchased); In re Ames, 160 USPQ 214 (TTAB 1968) (name of musical group functions as mark, where name was used on advertisements that prominently featured a photograph of the group and gave the name, address and telephone number of the group's booking agent); In re Folk, 160 USPQ 213 (TTAB 1968) (THE LOLLIPOP PRINCESS functions as a service mark for entertainment services, namely, telling children's stories by radio broadcasting and personal appearances).
See TMEP §§1202.09 et seq. regarding the registrability of the name of an artist or author as a trademark for goods.
1301.02(c) Three-Dimensional Service Marks
The three-dimensional configuration of a building is registrable as a service mark only if it is used in such a way that it is or could be perceived as a mark. Evidence of use might include menus or letterhead that shows promotion of the building's design, or configuration, as a mark. See In re Lean-To Barbecue, Inc., 172 USPQ 151 (TTAB 1971); In re Master Kleens of America, Inc., 171 USPQ 438 (TTAB 1971); In re Griffs of America, Inc., 157 USPQ 592 (TTAB 1968). Cf. Fotomat Corp. v. Cochran, 437 F. Supp. 1231, 194 USPQ 128 (D. Kan. 1977); Fotomat Corp. v. Photo Drive-Thru, Inc., 425 F. Supp. 693, 193 USPQ 342 (D.N.J. 1977).
A three-dimensional costume design may function as a mark for entertainment services. See In re Red Robin Enterprises, Inc., 222 USPQ 911 (TTAB 1984).
Generally, a photograph is a proper specimen of use for a three-dimensional mark. However, photographs of a building are not sufficient to show use of the building design as a mark for services performed in the building if they only show the building in which the services are performed. The specimen must show that the proposed mark is used in a way that would be perceived as a mark.
When examining a three-dimensional mark, the examining attorney must determine whether the proposed mark is inherently distinctive. See TMEP §1202.02(b)(ii).
1301.02(d) Titles of Radio and Television Programs
The title of a continuing series of presentations (e.g., a television or movie "series," a series of live performances, or a continuing radio program), may constitute a mark for either entertainment services or educational services. However, the title of a single creative work, that is, the title of one episode or event presented as one program, does not function as a service mark. In re Posthuma, 45 USPQ2d 2011 (TTAB 1998) (term that identifies title of a play not registrable as service mark for entertainment services). See also In re Cooper, 254 F.2d 611, 117 USPQ 396 (C.C.P.A. 1958), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 840, 119 USPQ 501 (1958); In re Scholastic Inc., 223 USPQ 431 (TTAB 1984), and TMEP §1202.08 , in which analogous situations involving book titles are discussed. The record must show that the matter sought to be registered is more than the title of one presentation, performance or recording.
Specimens that show use of a service mark in relation to television programs or a movie series may be in the nature of a photograph of the video or film frame when the mark is used in the program.
Service marks in the nature of titles of entertainment programs may be owned by the producer of the show, by the broadcasting system or station, or by the author or creator of the show, depending upon the circumstances. Normally, an applicant's statement that the applicant owns the mark is sufficient; the examining attorney should not inquire about ownership unless information in the record clearly contradicts the applicant's verified statement that it is the owner of the mark.
1301.02(e) Process, System or Method
A term that only identifies a process, style, method, system, or the like is not registrable as a service mark. A system or process is only a way of doing something, not a service. The name of a system or process does not become a service mark unless it is also used to identify and distinguish the service. In re Universal Oil Products Co., 476 F.2d 653, 177 USPQ 456 (C.C.P.A. 1973) (term not registrable as service mark where the specimens show use of the term only as the name of a process, even though applicant is in the business of rendering services generally and the services are advertised in the same specimen brochure in which the name of the process is used); In re Walker Research, Inc., 228 USPQ 691 (TTAB 1986) (term that merely identifies computer program used in rendering services does not function as mark to identify market analysis services); In re Hughes Aircraft Co., 222 USPQ 263 (TTAB 1984) (term does not function as service mark where it only identifies a photochemical process used in rendering service); In re Turbine Metal Technology, Inc., 219 USPQ 1132 (TTAB 1983) (term that merely identifies coating material does not function as mark for repair and reconstruction services); In re Vsesoyuzny Ordena Trudovogo Krasnogo Znameni Nauchoissledovatelsky Gorno-Metallurgichesky Institut Tsvetnykh Mettalov "Vnitsvetmet", 219 USPQ 69 (TTAB 1983) (KIVCET identifies only a process and plant configuration, not engineering services); In re Information Builders Inc., 213 USPQ 593 (TTAB 1982) (term identifies only a computer program, not the service of installing and providing access to a computer program); In re Scientific Methods, Inc., 201 USPQ 917 (TTAB 1979) (term that merely identifies educational technique does not function as mark to identify educational services); In re J.F. Pritchard & Co. and Kobe Steel, Ltd., 201 USPQ 951 (TTAB 1979) (term used only to identify liquefaction process does not function as mark to identify design and engineering services); In re Produits Chimiques Ugine Kuhlmann Societe Anonyme, 190 USPQ 305 (TTAB 1976) (term that merely identifies a process used in rendering the service does not function as service mark); In re Lurgi Gesellschaft Fur Mineraloltechnik m.b.H., 175 USPQ 736 (TTAB 1972) (term that merely identifies process for recovery of high purity aromatics from hydrocarbon mixtures does not function as service mark for consulting, designing and construction services); Ex parte Phillips Petroleum Co., 100 USPQ 25 (Comm'r Pats. 1953) (although used in advertising of applicant's engineering services, CYCLOVERSION was only used in the advertisements to identify a catalytic treating and conversion process).
If the term is used to identify both the process and the services rendered by means of the process, the designation may be registrable as a service mark. See Liqwacon Corp. v. Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc., 203 USPQ 305 (TTAB 1979), in which the Board found that the mark LIQWACON identified both a waste treatment and disposal service and a chemical solidification process.
The name of a system or process is registrable only if (1) the applicant is performing a service (see TMEP §§1301.01 et seq.), and (2) the designation identifies and indicates the source of the service. In determining eligibility for registration, the examining attorney must carefully review the specimens, together with any other information in the record, to see how the applicant uses the proposed mark. The mere advertising of the recited services in a brochure that refers to the process does not establish that a designation functions as a service mark; there must be some association between the offer of services and the matter sought to be registered. In re Universal Oil Products Co., supra; In re J.F. Pritchard & Co., supra.