How to Register a Trademark or Service Markin North Carolina
A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a person to identify and distinguish goods made, sold, or distributed by him/her from goods made, sold, or distributed by others.
A service mark is any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a person in the sale or advertising of his/her services and to identify and distinguish his/her services from the services provided by others.
Create your mark! Decide what words and/or design elements your trademark or service will contain – then perform the following steps to get your mark registered.
1. Find Out If the Trademark or Service Mark is Available:
The North Carolina trademark statute prohibits the registration of a new mark that is the same or confusingly similar to an existing mark or trade name that is in use in this State. Therefore, you must perform searches of the following three (3) databases to determine if the mark you want to register is available for registration in North Carolina.
- Trademark / Service Mark database: This Office maintains a database of all “active” trademarks and service marks registered in North Carolina. You are searching to determine if the words and or design elements contained in the mark you want to register are already registered by someone else. You also are looking to see if the goods or services of an “active” mark are the same, similar or related to the goods you produce or the services you provide. Click here and follow the instructions for searching for a trademark or service mark.
- Business Registration Division database: This Agency maintains a database of the trade names of businesses operating in North Carolina. Relative to the registration of trademarks and service marks, a trade name is “any name used by a person to identify his or her business or vocation.” (§ 45 of the Act, (15 U.S.C. §1127)) Therefore trade names can be the names of corporations, limited liability corporations, partnerships, associations, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Trade names also can be “doing business as names (i.e. DBAs), fictitious names or assumed names. You are searching the Business Registration Division’s database to determine if the words contained in the mark you want to register are the same or similar to those contained in the trade name of an existing business, and if the goods and/or services provided by the existing business are the same, similar or related to your goods or services. Click here to search for a trade name.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”): The TESS database contains “active” marks registered at the federal level with the USPTO. Some North Carolina businesses produce, sell and distribute goods and/or sell, advertise and provide services in multiple states, including in North Carolina. Consequently, they might bypass seeking registration of a North Carolina mark and instead register a mark at the federal level with the USPTO. You are searching to determine if an “active” mark in use in North Carolina, that contains the same/similar words and/or design elements as the mark you want to register, already is registered by someone else at the USPTO. You also are looking to see if the goods and/or services associated with an “active” federal mark are the same, similar or related to your goods or services. Click here to search for a federal trademark or service mark.
2 Get Three (3) Specimens Showing “Use” of the Trademark or Service Mark:
When applying for a trademark or service mark in North Carolina, N.C.G.S. § 80-3 requires applicants to submit three (3) complete, original, current (no more than six  months old) specimens of the mark as it currently is being used on its goods or in the sale or advertising of its services.
Before You Can Register a Mark - You Must Use the Mark!
The North Carolina Trademarks statute requires bona fide use of a mark in the ordinary course of trade and not a reservation to use the mark; which means you cannot register the mark now with the intent to use it in the future. Therefore, you must use the mark in commerce in association with the sell or distribution of goods or the sell or advertising of services before submitting an application to register a mark to the Trademarks Registration Office.
A trademark shall be deemed to be “used” on goods when the mark is placed….
- In any manner on the goods or their containers or displays associated with the goods, on tags or labels affixed to the goods, or in a catalog if the goods are large and placement of the mark on the good is impractical; and
- The goods are currently being sold or distributed in North Carolina.
A service mark shall be deemed to be “used” when the mark is….
- Used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services and the services are currently being rendered in North Carolina; or
- The services are being offered and are available to be rendered in North Carolina.
So, after you’ve used your trademark or service mark, you must submit three (3) specimens to this Office to register the mark.
Specimens that you can submit to show use of a “trademark” are as follows:
- The product itself with the “mark” depicted on a label or tag affixed to the goods/products;
- A mark stamping affixed to the goods or containers for the goods;
- A clear photograph showing use of the mark on the goods themselves when both the mark and the complete product are visible;
- A catalog where the entire mark, the goods and purchasing information are positioned together and clearly visible on the page;
- A clear photograph of a display on which the goods are positioned and the entire mark is prominently pictured in close proximity to the goods; and
- A web page printout with the entire mark, goods/products, point-of-sale information and the applicant’s web address clearly visible on the page.
Specimens that you can submit to show use of a “service mark” are as follows:
- Business card (with entire “mark” displayed);
- Letterhead (with entire “mark” displayed);
- Newspaper and magazine advertisements depicting the mark (the full-page ad);
- Computer screen printout of the mark in use on the applicant’s web page with the entire mark and applicant’s web address visible on the page;
- Mug, ink pen, pencil, notebook (with entire “mark” displayed)
- Menus, napkins and matchbooks used in restaurants, clubs and bars (with entire “mark” displayed); and
- Photograph (original and clear) of the entire mark displayed on a sign, billboard, marquis, store, shop, restaurant, medical facility, office building, vehicle, shirt or cap etc.
Unacceptable Specimens for Trademarks or Service Marks:
- Photocopies of the mark;
- Camera-ready layouts or camera-ready art;
- Faxes; and
- Voided checks and deposit slips
- Business cards, letterhead and any other items used to only advertise the goods are not acceptable specimens for registration of a trademark.
- If you are registering a trademark in association with the production of clothing, two (2) of the specimens must be actual pieces of clothing.
- You can submit three (3) of the same items as specimens or you can submit three different items; however, the mark must be identical in all aspects on each specimen.
3 Frequently Asked Questions:
If you have not applied to register a trademark or service mark before, we strongly recommend you read the frequently asked questions before attempting to complete the application. Click here to access the FAQs.
4. Complete a Trademark Registration or Renewal Application:
The North Carolina Trademark Act establishes how an application for registration of a trademark or service mark must be completed, therefore, it is important that you provide all of the requested information. Also, the application must be signed by someone having the capacity to bind the applicant if a legal issue arises. Lastly, the application must be notarized, therefore, it must be signed in the presence of a notary public with an active commission.
The application currently is not fillable online; Click here to download it
5. $75 Non-Refundable Filing Fee:
The cost to file an application to register a trademark or service mark in North Carolina is $75. The fee is non-fundable, which means you will not be refunded the $75 filing fee if your mark is not approved for registration.
After completing the registration application, mail it with three (3) specimens and the $75 filing fee to the following address:
North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State
PO Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622