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Acceptable Service Mark Specimens

To be acceptable for registration in the U.S. Trademark Office, a service mark specimen must show use of the mark in association with the claimed services in their sale or advertising in commerce that is regulated by Congress, namely interstate, territorial and commerce between the United States and a foreign country. 

The manner of service mark use on a specimen must be such that customers would readily understand the service mark as identifying and distinguishing the applicant's services and indicating their source.

A single specimen as currently being used in commerce is required in an application to register a service mark on the Principal Register of the United States Trademark Office.

These items are acceptable specimens for service mark registration purposes: 

  • internet web page advertising
  • newspaper/magazine/trade journal advertising
  • telephone directory advertising
  • promotional brochures on which the service mark is imprinted
  • direct mail advertising materials
  • handbills, posters, leaflets, circulars, fliers
  • business signage (on storefront, office door or company vehicle - provide photos)
  • invoices may be acceptable service mark specimens provided they show the mark and refer to the relevant services.
  • menus that show the mark and refer to restaurant services
  • business letterhead stationary and business cards that show the mark and contain a clear identification of the services
  • a copy of an actual letter to a customer on business letterhead stationery bearing the service mark where the content of the letter indicates the field or service area
  • trade show demonstration materials (provide photos)
  • static displays in customer showrooms (provide photos)
  • billboard advertising (photographs)
  • radio/television advertising (provide script/photos)
  • premium gift items such as T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, calendars, pencils/pens, coasters, buttons/badges on which the service mark is imprinted and a clear reference is made to the services (provide photos)
  • a proposal letter to a customer on business stationery that contains a display of the service mark and a clear reference to the services


  • price lists; order forms; announcements; publicity releases; listings in trade directories; business cards; and materials used for the purpose of conducting internal business such as invoices, bills of lading, waybills, inventory sheets, warranties and business letterhead stationery;  and bags and other packaging materials bearing the name of a retail store and used by the store merely for packaging items of sold merchandise.
  • bumper stickers which feature only the service mark with no reference to services
  • advertising in which the mark is used only for identifying a process or system with no reference to services
  • mark used in technical bulletins and data sheets merely to identify and advertise chemicals and not services
  • specimens show mark as used to identify a computer program only, and not any services
  • the mere advertising of one's products does not constitute service mark usage
  • technical bulletins and data sheets that use a mark merely to advertise chemicals, not consulting services
  • using a mark on a written proposal while providing technical assistance on how to use the applicant's own manufactured products
  • printer's proofs for advertisements, publicity releases to news media, or printed articles resulting from such releases, are not acceptable because they do not show use of the mark in the sale or advertising of the services

DEFINITIONS:  "commerce"

“Interstate commerce" refers to buying and selling products, and selling or advertising services, across state borders. 

A more formal definition of "interstate commerce" is: commerce between any combination of states, territories, and possessions of the United States, including the District of Columbia. 

The phrase "foreign commerce" means commerce between any state, territory or possession of the United States and a foreign country. 

"Territorial commerce" is commerce within a territory of the United States (e.g., Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands) or between the United States and a territory of the United States.

A purely intrastate use ordinarily does not provide a basis for federal registration. However, if intrastate use directly affects a type of commerce that Congress may regulate, this constitutes use in commerce.  For example, services rendered at a single-location restaurant, hotel or gasoline service station serving interstate travelers constitutes "use in commerce"  and therefore qualify for federal registration purposes.

Contact us to schedule a confidential meeting with our trademark attorneys.


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