PTRC | Trademark vs. Service Mark

  • A trademark refers to a good or service while a service mark refers to the company that provides the good or service. For example. Nike Cross Trainers ® is a trademark, but Nike, Inc. is a service mark that indicates the retail services provided by the company.

Can a company name be trademarked?

  • Business names, such as in the previous example (Nike), can be trademarked when there are goods or services with that name. For example, Nike Cross Trainers ® contains the word Nike, so therefore, Nike, Inc. can be trademarked as a company name.

Trademark Application Processes

  • First, be aware that one can have trademarks at both the state and federal level. For all questions regarding state marks, please refer to the Department of the Secretary of the State of North Carolina.
  • When you wish to obtain a trademark, you should first start by searching the TESS database either on the USPTO web site or at the DH Hill Library at North Carolina State University.
  • You might wish to then consult a patent and trademark attorney. The USPTO provides a searchable directory of Patent Attorneys and Agents registered to practice in various geographic areas.
  • Finally, you will need to apply for a trademark with the USPTO. You can do this online with the TEAS system at