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148 West River Street
Providence, RI 02904-2615
Phone: (401) 222-3040
Fax: (401) 222-1309
TTY: 711


Open to the public
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Filing Info

Trademark/Service Mark: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a trademark, service mark and a trade name?

A trademark is used to identify the products you make or sell. (defined RIGL§6-2-1(6))

A service mark is used to identify a service you provide. (defined RIGL§6-2-1(5))

A trade name is used to identify a business. (defined RIGL §6-2-1(7))

Trade names, copyrights and patents are not registered in this office.

Is a “trademark” the same as a “trade name?”

No. A “trade name” as defined in RIGL §6-2-1 is a word, name, symbol, device, or any combination thereof used by a person to identify his or her business. Trade names are most commonly filed with the local city or town hall in which the business is located. A “trademark” is used to identify a good or service a business provides.

What do I do to protect a trademark or service mark I have for my business?

The first step is to begin to use your mark so that it becomes connected with your product, service or business. Once you have established use of your mark, it can be registered with the Secretary of State. Registration provides public notice of your use of the mark in the State of Rhode Island. Registration may serve, in case of a dispute, as evidence of your claim to the use of the mark in this state.

How do I “describe” my mark?

It is very important to give a clear description of what you are trying to protect. You should describe the mark in enough detail so that a person who has not seen the mark would understand what it looks like. If your mark does not include a design element and is being presented in “standard character” format, you must include the following statement: “The mark is presented in standard character format without claim to any particular font, style, size or color.”

What is a specimen?

A specimen is an actual example of how your mark is being used. You should try to give an example of the use you have checked in Item 8 “how the mark is used” on the application. It could be the label you use on the goods you produce or an advertisement that identifies the services you provide. Clear photographs of the product with the mark on it are acceptable. A service mark specimen should clearly identify the service you are providing.

Do I have to choose a class?

Yes. A class identifies the category in which you will use your mark. Choose a category that you feel best represents your product or service from the list attached to the application for registration. You may choose only one class per application. If your goods or services fall into more than one category, you will need to file an application for each class.

Why do I have to list the dates of first use?

The dates of first use help establish when you began using the mark in the event of a dispute about ownership. Please list a complete date not just a year or a month and a year.

What cannot be registered?

The following categories of marks may not be registered:

A mark that consists of immoral or deceptive material; or is disparaging of or falsely suggesting a connection with persons living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols; or consists of a flag, coat of arms or other insignia of the United States, any state, municipality or foreign country; or consists of the name, signature or portrait of any living individual without his or her written consent; or is primarily descriptive or geographically descriptive or misdescriptive of goods or services; or is primarily a surname; or is one that resembles a mark already registered so closely that the marks could be confused.

Can I register just a word or my name?

Anything you wish to register should be distinctive in some way that distinguishes your use of it with your product or business from others use of that word. You may not claim exclusive use of generic or descriptive words or geographical designations. You must make the use of such terms distinctive from everyday usage. The more distinctive your mark, the greater your protection.

Do I have to be a business to register a mark?

No, an individual may register a mark as well as associations, unions, foundations and other organizations.

Does the Secretary of State enforce trademark rights?

No, this office is the filing office only. We maintain the records of what has been registered. If you feel there has been an infringement of your rights or have questions about the protection you are afforded by registration, you should consult legal counsel. This office cannot provide legal advice.