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Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure
October 2013
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13001301>  1301.01  

1301.01   What Is a Service?

A service mark can only be registered for activities that constitute services as contemplated by the Trademark Act.  15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, and 1127.  The Trademark Act defines the term “service mark,” but it does not define what constitutes a service.  Many activities are obviously services (e.g., dry cleaning, banking, shoe repairing, transportation, and house painting).

1301.01(a)   Criteria for Determining What Constitutes a Service

The following criteria have evolved for determining what constitutes a service:  (1) a service must be a real activity; (2) a service must be performed to the order of, or for the benefit of, someone other than the applicant; and (3) the activity performed must be qualitatively different from anything necessarily done in connection with the sale of the applicant’s goods or the performance of another service.  In re Canadian Pacific Ltd., 754 F.2d 992, 224 USPQ 971 (Fed. Cir. 1985); In re Betz Paperchem, Inc., 222 USPQ 89 (TTAB 1984); In re Integrated Resources, Inc., 218 USPQ 829 (TTAB 1983); In re Landmark Communications, Inc., 204 USPQ 692 (TTAB 1979).

1301.01(a)(i)   Performance of a Real Activity

A service must be a real activity.  A mere idea or concept, e.g., an idea for an accounting organizational format or a recipe for a baked item, is not a service.  Similarly, a system, process, or method is not a service.  In re Universal Oil Products Co., 476 F.2d 653, 177 USPQ 456 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re Citibank, N.A., 225 USPQ 612 (TTAB 1985); In re Scientific Methods, Inc., 201 USPQ 917 (TTAB 1979); In re McCormick & Co., Inc., 179 USPQ 317 (TTAB 1973).  See TMEP §1301.02(e) regarding marks that identify a system or process.

The commercial context must be considered in determining whether a real service is being performed.  For example, at one time the activities of grocery stores, department stores, and similar retail stores were not considered to be services.  However, it has long been recognized that gathering various products together, making a place available for purchasers to select goods, and providing any other necessary means for consummating purchases constitutes the performance of a service.

1301.01(a)(ii)   For the Benefit of Others

To be a service, an activity must be primarily for the benefit of someone other than the applicant.  While an advertising agency provides a service when it promotes the goods or services of its clients, a company that promotes the sale of its own goods or services is doing so for its own benefit rather than rendering a service for others.  In re Reichhold Chemicals, Inc., 167 USPQ 376 (TTAB 1970).  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(i).  Similarly, a company that sets up a personnel department to employ workers for itself is merely facilitating the conduct of its own business, while a company whose business is to recruit and place workers for other companies is performing employment agency services.

The controlling question is who primarily benefits from the activity for which registration is sought.  If the activity is done primarily for the benefit of others, the fact that applicant derives an incidental benefit is not fatal.  In re Venture Lending Associates, 226 USPQ 285 (TTAB 1985).  On the other hand, if the activity primarily benefits applicant, it is not a registrable service even if others derive an incidental benefit.  In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 5 USPQ2d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (contest promoting applicant’s goods not a service, even though benefits accrue to winners of contest); In re Alaska Northwest Publishing Co., 212 USPQ 316 (TTAB 1981).

Collecting information for the purpose of publishing one’s own periodical is not a service, because it is done primarily for the applicant’s benefit rather than for the benefit of others.  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(iii).

Offering shares of one’s own stock for investment is not a service, because these are routine corporate activities that primarily benefit the applicant.  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(iv).  On the other hand, offering a retirement income plan to applicant’s employees was found to be a service, because it primarily benefits the employees.  American Int’l Reinsurance Co., Inc. v. Airco, Inc., 570 F.2d 941, 197 USPQ 69 (C.C.P.A. 1978), cert. denied 439 U.S. 866, 200 USPQ 64 (1978).

Licensing intangible property has been recognized as a separate service, analogous to leasing or renting tangible property, that primarily benefits the licensee.  In re Universal Press Syndicate, 229 USPQ 638 (TTAB 1986).

1301.01(a)(iii)   Sufficiently Distinct from Activities Involved in Provision of Goods or Performance of Other Services

In determining whether an activity is sufficiently separate from an applicant’s principal activity to constitute a service, the examining attorney should first ascertain the nature of the applicant’s principal activity under the mark in question (i.e., the performance of a service or the provision of a tangible product).  The examining attorney must then determine whether the activity identified in the application is in any material way a different kind of economic activity than what any provider of that particular product or service normally provides.  In re Landmark Communications, Inc., 204 USPQ 692, 695 (TTAB 1979).  

For example, operating a grocery store is clearly a service.  Bagging groceries for customers is not considered a separately registrable service, because this activity is normally provided to and expected by grocery store customers, and is, therefore, merely ancillary to the primary service.

Providing general information or instructions as to the purpose and uses of applicant’s goods is merely incidental to the sale of goods, not a separate consulting service.  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(v).

Conducting a contest to promote the sale of one’s own goods or services is usually not considered a service, because it is an ordinary and routine promotional activity.  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(i).

While the repair of the goods of others is a recognized service, an applicant’s guarantee of repair of its own goods normally does not constitute a separate service, because that activity is ancillary to and normally expected in the trade.  See TMEP §1301.01(b)(ii).

However, the fact that an activity is ancillary to a principal service or to the sale of goods does not in itself mean that it is not a separately registrable service.  The statute makes no distinction between primary, incidental, or ancillary services.  In re Universal Press Syndicate, 229 USPQ 638 (TTAB 1986) (licensing cartoon character found to be a separate service that was not merely incidental or necessary to larger business of magazine and newspaper cartoon strip); In re Betz Paperchem, Inc., 222 USPQ 89 (TTAB 1984) (chemical manufacturer’s feed, delivery, and storage of liquid chemical products held to constitute separate service, because applicant’s activities extend beyond routine sale of chemicals); In re Congoleum Corp., 222 USPQ 452 (TTAB 1984) (awarding prizes to retailers for purchasing applicant’s goods from distributors held to be sufficiently separate from the sale of goods to constitute a service rendered to distributors, because it confers a benefit on distributors that is not normally expected by distributors in the relevant industry); In re C.I.T. Financial Corp., 201 USPQ 124 (TTAB 1978) (computerized financial data-processing services rendered to applicant’s loan customers held to be a registrable service, since it provides benefits that were not previously available, and is separate and distinct from the primary service of making consumer loans); In re U.S. Home Corp. of Texas, 199 USPQ 698 (TTAB 1978) (planning and laying out residential communities for others was found to be a service, because it goes above and beyond what the average individual would do in constructing and selling a home on a piece of land that he or she has purchased); In re John Breuner Co., 136 USPQ 94 (TTAB 1963) (credit services provided by a retail store constitute a separate service, since extension of credit is neither mandatory nor required in the operation of a retail establishment).

The fact that the activities are offered only to purchasers of the applicant’s primary product or service does not necessarily mean that the activity is not a service.  In re Otis Engineering Corp., 217 USPQ 278 (TTAB 1982) (quality control and quality assurance services held to constitute a registrable service even though the services were limited to applicant’s own equipment); In re John Breuner Co., supra (credit services offered only to customers of applicant’s retail store found to be a service).

The fact that the services for which registration is sought are offered to a different class of purchasers than the purchasers of applicant’s primary product or service is also a factor to be considered.  In re Forbes Inc., 31 USPQ2d 1315 (TTAB 1994); In re Home Builders Ass’n of Greenville, 18 USPQ2d 1313 (TTAB 1990).

Another factor to be considered in determining whether an activity is a registrable service is the use of a mark different from the mark used on or in connection with the applicant’s principal product or service.  See In re Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc., 11 USPQ2d 1312 (TTAB 1989); In re Universal Press Syndicate, supra; In re Congoleum Corp., supra; In re C.I.T. Financial Corp., supra.  However, an activity that is normally expected or routinely done in connection with sale of a product or another service is not a registrable service even if it is identified by a different mark.  In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 5 USPQ2d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1987); In re Television Digest, Inc., 169 USPQ 505 (TTAB 1971).  Moreover, the mark identifying the ancillary service does not have to be different from the mark identifying the applicant’s goods or primary service.  Ex parte Handmacher-Vogel, Inc., 98 USPQ 413 (Comm’r Pats. 1953).

1301.01(b)   Whether Particular Activities Constitute “Services”

1301.01(b)(i)   Contests and Promotional Activities

It is well settled that the promotion of one’s own goods is not a service.  In re Radio Corp. of America, 205 F.2d 180, 98 USPQ 157 (C.C.P.A. 1953) (record manufacturer who prepares radio programs primarily designed to advertise and sell records is not rendering a service); In re SCM Corp., 209 USPQ 278 (TTAB 1980) (supplying merchandising aids and store displays to retailers does not constitute separate service); Ex parte Wembley, Inc., 111 USPQ 386 (Comm’r Pats. 1956) (national advertising program designed to sell manufacturer’s goods to ultimate purchasers is not service to wholesalers and retailers, because national product advertising is normally expected of manufacturers of nationally distributed products, and is done in furtherance of the sale of the advertised products).

However, an activity that goes above and beyond what is normally expected of a manufacturer in the relevant industry may be a registrable service, even if it also serves to promote the applicant’s primary product or service.  In re U.S. Tobacco Co., 1 USPQ2d 1502 (TTAB 1986) (tobacco company’s participating in auto race held to constitute an entertainment service, because participating in an auto race is not an activity that a seller of tobacco normally does); In re Heavenly Creations, Inc., 168 USPQ 317 (TTAB 1971) (applicant’s free hairstyling instructional parties found to be a service separate from the applicant’s sale of wigs, because it goes beyond what a seller of wigs would normally do in promoting its goods); Ex parte Handmacher-Vogel, Inc., 98 USPQ 413 (Comm’r Pats. 1953) (clothing manufacturer’s conducting women’s golf tournaments held to be a service, because it is not an activity normally expected in promoting the sale of women’s clothing).

Conducting a contest to promote the sale of one’s own goods is usually not considered a service, even though benefits may accrue to the winners of the contest.  Such a contest is usually ancillary to the sale of goods or services, and is nothing more than a device to advertise the applicant’s products or services.  In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 5 USPQ2d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1987); In re Loew’s Theatres, Inc., 179 USPQ 126 (TTAB 1973); In re Johnson Publishing Co., Inc., 130 USPQ 185 (TTAB 1961).  However, a contest that serves to promote the sale of the applicant’s goods may be registrable if it operates in a way that confers a benefit unrelated to the sale of the goods, and the benefit is not one that is normally expected of a manufacturer in that field.  In re Congoleum Corp., 222 USPQ 452 (TTAB 1984).

A mark identifying a beauty contest is registrable either as a promotional service, rendered by the organizer of the contest to the businesses or groups that sponsor the contest, or as an entertainment service.  In re Miss American Teen-Ager, Inc., 137 USPQ 82 (TTAB 1963).  See TMEP §1402.11.

See TMEP §1301.01(b)(iii) regarding the providing of advertising space in a periodical.

1301.01(b)(ii)   Warranty or Guarantee of Repair

While the repair of the goods of others is a recognized service, an applicant’s guarantee of repair of its own goods does not normally constitute a separate service, because that activity is ancillary to and normally expected in the trade.  In re Orion Research Inc., 669 F.2d 689, 205 USPQ 688 (C.C.P.A. 1980) (guarantee of repair or replacement of applicant’s goods that is not separately offered, promoted, or charged for is not a service); In re Lenox, Inc., 228 USPQ 966 (TTAB 1986) (lifetime warranty that is not separately offered, promoted, or charged for is not a service).

However, a warranty that is offered or charged for separately from the goods, or is sufficiently above and beyond what is normally expected in the industry, may constitute a service.  In re Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc., 11 USPQ2d 1312 (TTAB 1989) (comprehensive automobile vehicle preparation, sales, and service program held to be a service, where applicant’s package included features that were unique and would not normally be expected in the industry); In re Sun Valley Waterbeds Inc., 7 USPQ2d 1825 (TTAB 1988) (retailer’s extended warranty for goods manufactured by others held to be a service, where the warranty is considerably more extensive than that offered by others); In re Otis Engineering Corp., 217 USPQ 278 (TTAB 1982) (non-mandatory quality control and quality assurance services held to constitute a registrable service even though the services were limited to applicant’s own equipment, where the services were separately charged for, the goods were offered for sale without services, and the services were not merely a time limited manufacturer’s guarantee).

Providing warranties to consumers and retailers on power-operated outdoor products was held to be a registrable service where the warranty covered goods manufactured by applicant but sold under the marks of third-party retailers.  Noting that none of applicant’s trademarks appeared on the goods or identified applicant as the source of the goods, the Board found that the third-party retailers rather than applicant would be regarded as the manufacturer of the products.  Because purchasers would make a distinction between the provider of the warranty and the provider of the goods, applicant’s warranty service would not be regarded as merely an inducement to purchase its own goods.  The Board also noted that applicant’s activities constitute a service to the third-party retailers, because applicant’s provision of warranties avoids the need of the retailer itself to provide a warranty.  In re Husqvarna Aktiebolag, 91 USPQ2d 1436 (TTAB 2009).

When an applicant offers a warranty on its own goods or services, the identification of services must include the word “extended,” or similar wording, to indicate that the warranty is “qualitatively different” from a warranty normally provided ancillary to the sale of the applicant’s goods/services.  When an applicant offers a warranty on third-party goods, the identification of services must so indicate.  See In re Omega SA, 494 F.3d 1362, 83 USPQ2d 1541 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (affirming that the USPTO has the discretion to determine whether and how a trademark registration should include a more particularized identification of the goods for which a mark is used).

The identification of services must also specify the item(s) that the extended warranty covers, e.g., “providing extended warranties on television sets.” Id.

Extended warranty services are classified in Class 36.

1301.01(b)(iii)   Publishing One’s Own Periodical

The publication of one’s own periodical is not a service, because it is done primarily for applicant’s own benefit and not for the benefit of others.  In re Billfish Int’l Corp., 229 USPQ 152 (TTAB 1986) (activities of collecting, distributing, and soliciting information relating to billfishing tournaments for a periodical publication not a separate service, because these are necessary preliminary activities that a publisher must perform prior to publication and sale of publication); In re Alaska Northwest Publishing Co., 212 USPQ 316 (TTAB 1981) (title of magazine section not registrable for magazine publishing services, because the activities and operations associated with designing, producing, and promoting applicant’s own product are ancillary activities that would be expected by purchasers and readers of any magazine); In re Landmark Communications, Inc., 204 USPQ 692 (TTAB 1979) (title of newspaper section not registrable as service mark for educational or entertainment service, because collected articles, stories, reports, comics, advertising, and illustrations are indispensable components of newspapers without which newspapers would not be sold); In re Television Digest, Inc., 169 USPQ 505 (TTAB 1971) (calculating advertising rates for a trade publication not a registrable service, because this is an integral part of the production or operation of any publication).

However, providing advertising space in one’s own periodical may be a registrable service, if the advertising activities are sufficiently separate from the applicant’s publishing activities.  In re Forbes Inc., 31 USPQ2d 1315 (TTAB 1994) (“providing advertising space in a periodical” held to be a registrable service, where the advertising services were rendered to a different segment of the public under a different mark than the mark used to identify applicant’s magazines); In re Home Builders Ass’n of Greenville, 18 USPQ2d 1313 (TTAB 1990) (real estate advertising services rendered by soliciting advertisements and publishing a guide comprising the advertisements of others held to be a registrable service, where advertising was found to be the applicant’s primary activity, and the customers who received the publication were not the same as those to whom the advertising services were rendered).

1301.01(b)(iv)   Soliciting Investors

Offering shares of one’s own stock for investment and reinvestment, and publication of reports to one’s own shareholders, are not services, because these are routine corporate activities that primarily benefit the applicant.  In re Canadian Pacific Ltd., 754 F.2d 992, 224 USPQ 971 (Fed. Cir. 1985).  Similarly, soliciting investors in applicant’s own partnership is not a registrable service.  In re Integrated Resources, Inc., 218 USPQ 829 (TTAB 1983) (syndicating investment partnerships did not constitute a service within the meaning of the Trademark Act, because there was no evidence that the applicant was in the business of syndicating the investment partnerships of others; rather, the applicant partnership was engaged only in syndication of interests in its own organization).  On the other hand, investing the funds of others is a registrable service that primarily benefits others.  In re Venture Lending Associates, 226 USPQ 285 (TTAB 1985) (investment of funds of institutional investors and providing capital for management found to be a registrable service).

In Canadian Pacific, 224 USPQ at 974, the court noted that since shareholders are owners of the corporation, an applicant who offers a reinvestment plan to its stockholders is essentially offering the plan to itself and not to a segment of the buying public.  The court distinguished American Int’l Reinsurance Co., Inc. v. Airco, Inc., 570 F.2d 941, 197 USPQ 69 (C.C.P.A. 1978), cert. denied 439 U.S. 866, 200 USPQ 64 (1978), in which offering an optional retirement plan to applicant’s employees was found to be a registrable service that primarily benefits the employees.

1301.01(b)(v)   Informational Services Ancillary to the Sale of Goods

Providing general information or instructions as to the purpose and uses of applicant’s goods is merely incidental to the sale of goods, not a separate informational service.  In re Moore Business Forms Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1638 (TTAB 1992) (paper manufacturer who rates the recycled content and recyclability of its own products is merely providing information about its goods, not rendering a service to others); In re Reichhold Chemicals, Inc., 167 USPQ 376 (TTAB 1970) (“promoting the sale and use of chemicals” is not a registrable service, where applicant is merely providing “technical bulletins” that contain information about its own products); Ex parte Armco Steel Corp., 102 USPQ 124 (Comm’r Pats. 1954) (analyzing the needs of customers is not registrable as a consulting service, because it is an ordinary activity that is normally expected of a manufacturer selling goods); Ex parte Elwell-Parker Electric Co., 93 USPQ 229 (Comm’r Pats. 1952) (providing incidental instructions on the efficient use of applicant’s goods not a service).  However, an applicant’s free hairstyling instructional “parties” were found to be a service, because conducting parties goes beyond what a seller of wigs would normally do in promoting its goods.  In re Heavenly Creations, Inc., 168 USPQ 317 (TTAB 1971).