What is a trademark or service mark?

Why do I need a trademark or service mark?

How do I register a mark?

What is the filing fee to register a trademark or service mark?

How many marks or classes can I register per application?

Can I reserve a trademark or service mark before using it?

Do I need to submit specimens of my mark along with my application?

Do I have to submit three (3) different specimens?

What can’t be registered as a trademark or service mark?

Does registration with your Department prevent others from registering the same or similar mark in other states?

Do I have to register my mark with the federal government?

Does your Department search the Federal register when checking on the availability of marks?

Does your Department file "copyrights"?

Once I register a mark, can it sell it to someone else?

What is the cost of filing an assignment of my mark?

What might cause me to lose my mark registration?

How do I find the classification for my particular product or service?

Is there any way I can get into legal trouble with my mark?

How long does my registration last?

What is the difference between a "tradename" and a "trademark"?

What do the designations "TM" and "SM" mean?

Can I use the "®" designation if my mark is registered in your office?

Does your Department register patents?

Can I fax you my application for registration or renewal?


What is a trademark or service mark?

The term "trademark" means any word, name, symbol or device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a person to identify goods made, sold or distributed by him, and to distinguish them from goods made, sold or distributed by others. A "service mark" means a mark used in the sale or advertising of services to identify the services of one person, and distinguish them from the services of others. A "mark" includes any trademark or service mark entitled to registration under Chapter 80 of the General Statutes, whether registered or not.

Why do I need a trademark or service mark?

Because you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find you.  You also want to make it as easy as possible for them to remember you the next time they need the product or service you provide.

How do I register a mark?

The first step is the simplest of all -- you should use the trademark or service mark you want before you register it with the N.C. Department of the Secretary of State. There is no prescribed length of time that the mark must be used in North Carolina before you can register it.  You will, however, have to prove that you are currently using the mark before you will be allowed to register it with the Trademark Section.

Second, make sure no one else has already registered the mark you intend to use. You can contact the Trademark Section to find out whether your mark has already been registered by someone else.

Third, you must file a complete, correct Application for Trademark or Service Mark Registration/Renewal (Form TM-01) along with three (3) original specimens of the mark you are,registering and the $75.00 mark registration fee, which is non-refundable. You do not necessarily have to have an attorney file your application, but we strongly encourage you to seek competent legal counsel of your own choice if you have any questions or concerns about registering your trademark. Please be sure to fill out the Application for Trademark or Service Mark Registration/Renewal completely and correctly. You will need to provide the following information for an initial mark registration:

Applicants name and address

Describe your mark

Describe the specific goods or services the mark will cover

Provide the date the mark was first used anywhere and the date it was first used in North Carolina

State that you own the mark

What is the filing fee to register a trademark or service mark?

Click here to view the fee schedule.

How many marks or classes can I register per application?

One mark may be filed per application. Similarly, only one class designation may be filed per application, although a mark is sometimes eligible for registration in more than one class. A separate application must be filed for each mark and each class you desire to register.

Can I reserve a trademark or service mark before using it?

No. A mark must actually be used in North Carolina before it can be registered. Under the law, "use" means the bona fide use of a mark in the State of North Carolina in the ordinary course of trade, and not merely the reservation of a right to a mark. A mark will be deemed to be "used" in North Carolina (i) on goods when it is placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or the displays associated therewith or on tags, or labels affixed thereto, or if the nature of the goods makes placement impractical, then on documents associated with the goods, and the goods are currently sold or otherwise distributed in the State, and (ii) on services when it is used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services and the services are currently being rendered in this state, or are being offered and are available to be rendered in this State.

Do I need to submit specimens of my mark along with my application?

Yes. You must provide the Trademark Section with three (3) original specimens of your mark as it is actually used when you file your Application for Trademark or Service Mark Registration /Renewal. "Original" means one of two things: either it is a sample of your product with the mark on it or it is a photograph of the mark on one of your products. If you’re using the mark for a brand of hats, for instance, you can send us three of the hats with the mark or the packaging in which they are sold. Be reasonable about sending three samples of your product with the mark on them. If you’re using your trademark for a line of pianos, you should probably just send us three original and separate photographs of the trademark as it is affixed to your pianos or their packaging. After all, we don’t really have room to store pianos and we’re pretty sure you don’t want to pay for the stamps to mail them to us.

Original specimens of service marks include samples of marketing material used to promote the specific service or original letterhead, business cards, invoices or envelopes containing the mark as it is used to promote your specific services.

Photocopies, drawings, blueprints, faxes, computer printouts or camera ready layouts are not accepted as specimens. If your specimens are not samples of your product with the mark on it or an original photograph, we will have to reject your application for registration.

Do I have to submit three (3) different specimens?

No. We will accept three samples of the same specimen.

What can’t be registered as a trademark or service mark?

Your application for trademark or service mark will be immediately rejected if your mark:

Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive or scandalous material

Consist or or comprises matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons living or dead, institutions, beings or national symbols or bring them into contempt or disrepute

Consists of or comprises the flag or coat of arms or other insignia of  the United States, or of any state or municipality or of any foreign nation or any simulation thereof

Consists or or comprises the name, signature or portrait of any living individual, except with his/her written consent

Consists of a mark which, when applied the the goods or services of the applicant, is merely descriptive of them or merely describes one or more of the characteristics or is deceptively misdescriptive of them or falsely describes the nature, function, capacity or characteristics of them

Consists of a mark which, when applied to the goods or services of the applicant, is primarily geographically descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them

Consists of a mark which is primarily merely a surname

Consists of or comprises a mark which so resembles a mark already registered in this state or a mark or trade name previously used in this state by another entity and not abandoned by that entity

Does registration with your Department prevent others from registering the same or similar mark in other states?

No. Registration of your mark in our office only applies to the state of North Carolina. You should consult with a trademark attorney to determine whether additional state and/or federal registrations are needed.

Do I have to register my mark with the federal government?

The only thing we can really tell you on this subject is that you don't have to have federal registration for your mark in order to obtain mark registration in North Carolina.  On the other hand, registering for mark protection with the Trademark Section of the N.C. Department of the Secretary of State does not obligate you to also file for mark protection with the federal government. Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site at www.uspto.gov/.

Does your Department search the Federal register when checking on the availability of marks?

No. Our office cannot guarantee the availability of marks and we do not search the records of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for Federal Registrations.

Does your Department file "copyrights"?

No. Copyrights are registered federally in the office of the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Their phone number is (202) 707-3000. Visit the Copyright Office Web site at www.lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/.

Once I register a mark, can it sell it to someone else?

Yes, you can.  Transferring the right to use a mark to another person or business entity is called assignment.

What is the cost of filing an assignment of my mark?

Click here to view the fee schedule.

What might cause me to lose my mark registration?

We can -- and will -- cancel the registration for your mark if:

You or your assignee requests in writing that we cancel the mark registration.

Your registration is not renewed in time.

A court finds that mark has been abandoned or, for some reason, can no longer serve as your mark or the mark registration was granted improperly or obtained fraudulently.  Court findings that the registrant was not the actual owner of the mark or that the registered mark is or has become the generic name for the goods and services for which it has been registered will also lead to cancellation of registration.

A court finds that our mark registration was obtained using materially false statements in the mark registration application.

A court finds that your registered mark is so similar to another mark already in us in North Carolina and registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that it would likely confuse or deceive consumers.

You do not comply with our requirements for the five-year use affidavit.

A court orders us to cancel your mark registration.

How do I find the classification for my particular product or service?

Please see the links below.  If you don't see your particular good or service on that list or id you are not sure where your product or service should be classified, please contact the Trademark Section.

Classification of Goods

Service Classes

Is there any way I can get into legal trouble with my mark?

Yes.  Here are some of the ways you can get yourself into legal trouble with trademark laws:

Fraudulent registration

Trademark infringement

How long does my registration last?

Once registered, a mark is effective for ten (10) years and may be renewed for subsequent ten (10) year terms so long as it continues in use in North Carolina. Please note, however that after the expiration of five (5) years following initial or renewal registration, you must submit a specimen to the Trademark Section showing evidence of current use of the mark, as well as a signed statement verifying the use of the mark. Our office provides each of these forms and their use is mandatory.

What is the difference between a "tradename" and a "trademark"?

These two are not the same. A tradename (also known as an "assumed name") is the name an owner uses to identify his or her business. These are generally governed by N.C.Gen. Stat. § 66-68 et seq. A trademark, on the other hand, is used to identify the goods and products of an individual. Tradenames are not filed with the Department of the Secretary of State, but are registered with the local government, usually in the office of the register of deeds in the county where the person does business under that name.

What do the designations "TM" and "SM" mean?

These designations indicate that a person claims rights in a trademark or service mark. They do not mean that a mark has been registered in this Department. A person or entity that claims ownership rights in a trademark or service mark may place these designations next to it even though the mark is not registered.

Can I use the "®" designation if my mark is registered in your office?

No. This designation indicates that a mark is federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It should only be used if that agency has granted registration.

Does your Department register patents?

No. A patent protects inventions and improvements to existing inventions. Although the Trademark Section does not issue patents, you may contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office for more information. Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site at www.uspto.gov/.

Can I fax you my application for registration or renewal?

No. The Trademark Section does not accept faxed applications. All applications must be originally signed and filed either by hand or mail.