The terms trademark and servicemark generally mean the same thing—a word, phrase, or symbol used to identify the source of goods or services. The terms are often used interchangeably, even by attorneys.
In the strictest sense, trademarks are source identifiers for products and servicemarks are source identifiers for services. In general, however, there is no harm in referring to a brand name for services a trademark or a product source identifier as a servicemark. The non-specific term “mark” may also be used in their place.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has adopted the Nice Classification system published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to organize good and services into forty-five (45) different classes. Goods are classified in Classes 1 – 34 and services are classified in Classes 35 – 45. Frequently a single brand name or symbol may cover multiple classes, including classes for both goods and services.
To find out which classification a particular product or service would fall into, the USPTO provides a Trademark ID Manual with thousands of acceptable descriptions.
The international Nice Classification system attempts to classify similar products and services into the same category. Goods are generally classified by their function, purpose, or material. Services are typically classified by activity or subject matter.
WIPO’s committee of experts does its best to keep the classification system logical and orderly. Changes do occur regularly, however. There have been eleven editions of the Nice Classification published with products and services sometimes changing from one class to another. These changes must be closely monitored as they may affect industries and necessitate filing key brands in a new class.