Trademarks FAQs

Trademarks FAQs

What is a trademark?
A trademark is any word, name, symbol, device or combination thereof used by a person to identify goods made or sold and to distinguish them from the goods made or sold by another person.  In general, you use a trademark to identify a product or goods that are sold (examples include soft drinks, automobiles, magazines and food).

What is a service mark?
A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that a service mark is used by a person to identify services rendered or offered and to distinguish them from the services rendered or offered by another person.  The services must be provided to the public or any party other than the applicant.  In general, you use a service mark to identify services that are offered or sold (examples include restaurant, retail business and computer services).

What are specimens?
A specimen is an actual example of the use of the mark in commerce.  It is the means by which the public would view your mark and be aware of the specific goods or services offered.

For trademarks, examples of acceptable specimens are tags or labels that are attached to the goods, containers for the goods, displays associated with the goods, or photographs of the goods showing use of the mark of the goods themselves. Invoices, announcements, order forms, bills of lading, leaflets, brochures, catalogs, publicity release, letterhead and business cards may be acceptable specimens for trademarks if they sufficiently demonstrate that the mark is being used with the goods. If it is impractical to send the actual specimens because of its size, photographs or other acceptable reproductions that show the mark on the goods, or packaging for the goods, must be furnished.

For services marks, examples of acceptable specimens are signs, brochures about the services, advertisements for the services, business cards or stationary showing the mark in connection with the services, or photographs that show the mark either as it is used in the rendering or advertising of the services. The specimen must either show the mark and include some clear reference to the type of services rendered under the  mark in some form of advertising, or show the mark as it is used in the rendering of the service (for example, on a store front or the side of a delivery truck).

The specimen should not be larger than 8 ½ inches by 11 inches and should be flat. Small specimens, such as tags or labels, must be taped or pasted to a sheet of paper and labeled “SPECIMEN”.

How do you describe the mark in words?

Enter a complete and accurate description of the overall mark. If the mark contains both words and a design element, the description must include both. If a mark is in color, you must list the portions of the mark that are in color and the corresponding color for each. If the description is not accurate, either incomplete or includes words, letters, numbers, or other elements not actually appearing in the mark image, the applicant will be required to amend the description of the mark.

What is the mode or manner of use?

How the applicant is using the mark. For example, “business cards”, “letterhead”, “flyers”, “signs”, “labels”, “newspaper advertisements”, “billboards”, “bus benches”, “television advertisements”, “websites”.

 In which class number(s) do goods or services fall?

Good and Service Class Guide

 What is the required filing fee?

The filing fee for the application is $20.00 per Class entered in number 10 of the application.  If there is only one (1) class indicated the fee is $20.00. If there are two (2) classes indicated, the fee is $40.00, etc.

 Make check, cashier’s check or money order payable to the Tennessee Secretary of State.  Cash is only accepted for walk-in filings.

How can I check on the status of trademarks in the State of Tennessee?
To access information on trademarks, use the Trademark/Servicemark Search. This database reflects active trademarks/servicemarks on file with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Both 'Active' and 'Cancelled' marks are searchable.

For what reason might an application for registration or renewal of trademark be rejected by the Division of Business Services?
The reasons for rejection include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • An incomplete form is submitted.  All blanks must be filled in for both registration and renewal applications.
  • An acceptable specimen is not provided.  A specimen is required for both registration and renewal applications.
  • No signature and/or is the signature is not notarized.
  • Incomplete dates.  Dates must include month, day and year.
  • The application is completed in pencil.  All registration and renewal applications must be typewritten or completed in ink.
  • Failure to include the $20.00 per classification filing fee.
  • Failure to include the type of goods and/or services to be provided.
  • Failure to include the mode or manner of use.
  • Failure to include a classification in the application.
  • A new owner is listed in a renewal application.

What are the laws governing trademark registration in the state of Tennessee?
The Tennessee Trade Mark Act of 2000 governs trademark registration in Tennessee.  The Tennessee Trade Mark Act of 2000 can be found in the Tennessee Code Annotated, Sections 47-25-501 through 47-25-518.

Once registered, how long does a trademark last?
Trademark protection lasts for five years from the date of filing.  Trademarks can be renewed for subsequent five year intervals beginning from six months prior to expiration until the day of expiration.

How do I renew a registered trademark or service mark?

To renew a trademark or service mark use the Application for Renewal of Trademark or Service Mark.

How do I assign a registered trademark or service mark?

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 47-25-507, a registered mark is assignable with the good will of the business in which the mark is used, or with that part of the good will of the business connected with the use of and symbolized by the mark. An assignment must be made by “instruments in writing duly executed.” An assignment must include within the assignment instrument itself a provision expressly indicating the transfer of “good will” to the assignee.

A separate assignment instrument and application for assignment of trademark or service mark must be submitted for each registered mark; if a mark is registered in more than one class, only one assignment instrument and application need be submitted. A photocopy of the executed assignment instrument may be submitted in lieu of the original assignment instrument if it is certified by any of the parties thereto, or their successors, to be a true and correct copy of the original.

To assign a registered trademark or service mark use the Application for Assignment of Trademark or Service Mark.

What role does the Secretary of State play in regulating the use of trademarks or prosecuting their misuse?
The Secretary of State does not play any role in regulating the use of trademarks or in prosecuting their misuse.  The Tennessee Trade Mark Act of 2000 designates the Department of State as the filing agency for trademarks.  The Department’s role is strictly ministerial.  If you have any questions about the “protection” of a mark, infringement upon your mark, or the application of filing requirements to your specific situation, you should consult an attorney or other professional.

How many active marks are registered in Tennessee?
There are more than 8,000 active marks registered in Tennessee.  The Division of Business Services registers more than 160 trademarks per month.

Additional Questions?

Trademark Instruction Guide