Questions Frequently Asked About Trademarks

What are trademarks and servicemarks?
A trademark or servicemark is any word, name, symbol or design, or any combination thereof, used to distinguish the goods or services rendered by one party from the goods or services rendered by another party. A trademark is generally used to identify goods or products while a servicemark is generally used in advertising for services. In the following information, the terms "trademark" and "mark" are used generically to refer to both trademarks and servicemarks.

A trademark is different from a copyright or patent. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention. For copyright information call the Library of Congress at (202) 707-3000. For information on patents and federal trademarks call (800) PTO-9199 or (703) 308-HELP.

What is the difference between a trademark and a servicemark?
A trademark is any word, name, symbol or design, or any combination thereof, used to distinguish the goods or services rendered by one party from the goods or services of another party. A trademark is generally used to identify goods or products while a servicemark appears in advertising for services.

What does the Indiana Trademark Act protect?
The Indiana Trademark Act (IC 24-2) protects words, phrases, symbols or designs, or any combinations thereof when they are used to distinguish the source of the goods or services rendered by one party from the goods or services of another party. Marks are checked against other marks registered in Indiana, but not against corporate, fictitious, or assumed names. It is the duty of the applicant to perform these searches.

How do trademark rights originate?
Trademark rights arise from actual use of the mark in commerce. A mark cannot be registered until it has been used in Indiana. Indiana defines a mark being "used" when it is placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or on the tags or labels affixed thereto, or when it is used to identify the services of one person and distinguish them from the services of others, and such goods or services are sold, otherwise distributed, or rendered in this state.

Are tradenames registered with the Secretary of State?
Tradenames are not registered with the Secretary of State; they are registered in the respective County Recorder's office in the county where the business office of the company seeking filing is located.

How is a federal trademark obtained?
The toll-free number for the federal patent and trademark office is 1-800-786-9199. Any questions concerning a federal patent or trademark may be directed to this number.

Who may file an application for a trademark?
The application must be filed in the name of the owner of the mark, which is usually an individual, corporation or partnership. Trademark protection may be sought by an individual, corporation, association, partnership, or any other entity. Forms are available at the office of the Secretary of State located at 302 W. Washington St.; Rm. E-018; Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 or via the website at Trademarks may also be looked up online through the Secretary of State Web site at

What is the trademark registration fee?
There is a $10.00 filing fee for each registered mark. The fee is payable by check or money order to the Secretary of State of Indiana. This fee is non-refundable.

What are the required specimens?
Three specimens are required in order to register a mark. The specimen must be an actual sample of how the mark is currently being used in commerce. The specimens may be identical or they may be examples of three different uses showing the same mark. If the mark is used on goods, examples of acceptable specimens are tags or labels which are attached to the goods, displays associated with the goods, or photographs of the goods showing the use of the mark on the goods themselves. If the mark is used for services, the specimens must show the mark and include some clear reference to the type of services rendered under the mark. Examples of acceptable specimens are signs, brochures about the services, advertisements, business cards or stationery, and photographs which show the mark as it is used either in the rendering or advertising of the services.

What does it mean to disclaim something?
An entity cannot claim exclusive ownership of certain words, phrases, or pictorial features. This information contained in the mark must be disclaimed.

What should be disclaimed on an application for registration?
Any words, phrases, and pictorial features which are merely descriptive of the goods or services are primarily geographic should be disclaimed. The names of cities, states, any reference to a person living or dead and designation of corporate status should also be disclaimed (e.g. Inc., company, Indiana).

How long is A trademark registration valid?
A registration is valid for five (5) years, and the Secretary of State will notify the registrant at the last known address six months prior to the renewal date.

Who is the trademark contact person at the Secretary of State's Office?
Contact the Trademarks Deputy at the Secretary of State's Office at 302 W. Washington St.; Rm E-018; Indianapolis, IN 46204. The telephone number is (317) 232-6540.

What do I do if someone is using my mark?
You should seek advice from an attorney specializing in trademark or intellectual property law. You may contact the Indiana State Bar Association at (317) 639-5465 to find an attorney near you. A general rule of thumb is first in use, first in right.

What are assignments?
An assignment transfers the ownership of a mark along with all the goodwill associated with the mark to a new owner. Assignments must be recorded with the Secretary of State. Once the assignment has been filed, a new registration is valid until the end of the five (5) year term, and it is renewable in the same way the original would have been.

Do press releases count as usage?
No, these are usually not considered bona fide uses of the mark. No sale of goods or services has been made.

Is there an intent to use provision?
Indiana does not have a provision for reservation of marks with the intent to use the mark in the future.

Can I use the website to search for available trademarks?
A search for available trademarks is accessible on our website, If you have further questions, you may contact the Trademarks Deputy at (317) 232-6540.