Business owners and creative developers in New York should understand intellectual property, including trademarks and service marks. These are important mechanisms to protect your ownership of certain logos, slogans and marks, and they can help to protect your space in the market from counterfeiters and competitors that want to succeed on the back of your ideas. The identifying images and words you use to make your business stand out in branding, advertising and marketing can be classified as trademarks and service marks.

A trademark is a word, symbol, name, device or any combination that is used to distinguish one business’s goods from others. A trademark is essentially your brand name, at the center of your branding process. On the other hand, a service mark is designed to distinguish a service, rather than a product. Service marks might be used by electricians, plumbers, web designers or other companies that provide services, rather than goods, to their customers.

In some cases, the line between a product and a service can be confusing. Many technologies are sold as “software as a service,” and customers purchase both the software and extended maintenance, support and storage. Restaurants may provide a service while also selling individual items of food. This means that your company could have both trademarks and service marks for many projects.

Both trademarks and service marks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A business and commercial law attorney can help a business owner move through the process, which can be surprisingly complex. Registration of the mark often includes showing that your business owns the mark, and you also have a responsibility to protect its marks from infringers. However, registering trademarks and service marks might provide useful protection for a business’s unique market space.