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Registering Trademarks or Services Marks

Trademarks Registration Office

A trademark is any word, name, symbol, graphic image or combination of words and graphic images that your company has formally adopted and uses to identify its products and distinguish them from the products of its competitors. A service mark identifies your company's services and distinguishes them from the services offered by your competitors. Registering a trademark or service mark serves as public notice that you are claiming ownership of that distinguishing mark. It may protect your corporation from having a competitor adopt a conflicting mark. Registering trademarks and service marks is voluntary.

While the Department of the Secretary of State does not require you to register any of the trademarks or service marks your corporation uses, we do strongly recommend that you protect those marks by registering them. The Trademark Registration website /divisions/trademarks can provide you with registration forms for your trademark or service mark. Trade names can qualify for registration as service marks if they meet certain statutory requirements set by the State of North Carolina. Call the Trademark Registration Office at 919-814-5400 for more information on the registration process or registration forms. You may fax requests for information to 919 814-5397 or send them via email to [email protected]

Both trademarks and service marks must already be in use in North Carolina before they can be registered. Your company's goods must already be manufactured and distributed in this state or its services must already be rendered before you can apply for trademark or service mark registration. Simply advertising that your company's goods or services will be available in North Carolina in the future does not establish that the are currently in use here. When filing for trademark or service mark registration, you should also provide the Trademark Registration Office with actual specimens of the mark as it is used on your company's products or to advertise your company's services.

The NC Trademark Registration Act uses the International classification system. This classification system allows businesses in North Carolina to register similar names for unrelated products and services and prevents duplicate registration of marks that are so similar they could easily confuse consumers.

You can register trademarks and service marks at the Federal level as well as at the state level. While Federal registration will protect your mark throughout the entire United States, it is usually a time-consuming process. Many corporations prefer to seek state mark registration in order to protect their marks until they receive Federal registration. State and Federal mark registrations are totally unrelated and the agencies on both levels which handle trademark and service mark registration do not cross-check other state or Federal records as part of the registration process. Requirements for state and Federal mark registration are not identical. Acquiring a Federal mark registration does not mean that your mark will be accepted at the state level. You must always meet the state requirements in order to obtain state trademark or service mark registration. For more information on Federal trademark and service mark registration, contact the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Building Three, Crystal Plaza, Arlington, VA 20231 or call (703) 557-4636. You can view the Web page at

For more information on State Trademark Registration, click the icon above to the NC Trademark Registration Office.

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