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Before you Apply

Your intellectual property can be protected in several ways; however, the RI Department of State only registers trademarks and service marks in use within the boundaries of the State of Rhode Island. Read on to discover which category your intellectual property falls into and some tips on pursuing a state-level mark registration.


What is the difference between a Trademark, Service Mark, Patent, and Copyright?

Trademark

A trademark is any word, name, symbol, design or combination of these that:
1. identifies the source of your goods; and
2. distinguishes them from the goods of another party

Example: Your business, GoStrum, makes and sells acoustic guitars. On each guitar, you stamp your logo: the name “GoStrum” in blue cursive script over bars of sheet music. You may want to apply for a trademark of the logo to distinguish your brand of guitars from other brands.

Service Mark

A service mark is any word, name, symbol, design or combination of these that:
1. identifies the source of your services; and
2. distinguishes them from the services of another party.

Example: Your business, Strawberry Seed, offers banking and lending services. You may want to apply for a service mark for your business name to distinguish your brand of financial services from other banks.

Patent

A patent provides legal protection for inventions. Patents are only available at the federal level through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Example: Your guitar business has invented a new type of acoustic guitar made from recycled materials. You may want to apply for a patent to protect the design of your new invention.

Copyright

A copyright provides legal protection for original artistic works. Copyrights are only available at the federal level through the U.S. Copyright Office.

Example: To help sell your banking services, you develop a catchy jingle for use in TV and radio advertisements. You may want to copyright your jingle to prevent others from using the same sounds in their own advertisements.

Important Considerations


Will I need an attorney to apply for registration of my mark?

No. An individual or entity may apply on its own behalf for a trademark or service mark in Rhode Island. It is important to remember, however, that our office cannot offer you any legal advice. If you have questions or are concerned about protecting your mark, we strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney with relevant trademark/service mark experience.


Do I have to register my mark in order to claim ownership rights to it?

Once you use a mark in connection with goods or services in Rhode Island, you can claim ownership of that mark. This is called “common law” rights. You do not have to register your mark to acquire common law rights to it.


If registering my mark does not give me ownership, why should I register?

Registering your mark with the Rhode Island Department of State gives the public notice that you claim the rights to that mark. Once you register your mark, it becomes a public record available in our Trademark/Service Mark database. Registering the mark can help others in Rhode Island avoid developing or using a mark that is too similar to yours. This also gives you added protection if you wish to pursue legal action against another party who begins to use a mark too similar to yours.


How will I know if another person or business has registered a mark similar to mine?

Before applying to register your mark with the Rhode Island Department of State, you or a qualified attorney should conduct a thorough search of the RI Trademark/Service Mark database, the USPTO trademark electronic search system , other states’ trademark records, and the Internet. Registering your mark with the state does not mean that your mark or a similar mark has not been registered at the federal level. In addition, it does not guarantee that another person isn’t using it without registration and claiming common law rights.


When can I use TM, SM, or ®?

TM (trademark) and SM  (service mark) are symbols that indicate you claim rights to that mark. These symbols do not indicate that you have registered your mark with the RI Department of State. There is no symbol that indicates state registration of your mark. ® indicates that your mark has been successfully registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.