The Secretary of State’s Office is a ministerial filing office and cannot provide legal advice to citizens. Nothing in the following should be construed to constitute legal advice. The Secretary of State’s Office strongly recommends that you seek the assistance of counsel before making any decisions that may have legal implications.
1. What is a trademark or service mark?
Trademark means a word, name, symbol, or device or any combination of these used by a person to identify and distinguish the goods of that person, including a unique product, from those manufactured and sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown. "Trademark" also means, but is not limited to, the symbol, emblem, sign, insignia, or any combination thereof, of the United States Olympic Committee or the International Olympic Committee.
Service mark means a word, name, symbol, or device or any combination of these used by a person to identify and distinguish the services of one person, including a unique service, from the services of others and to indicate the source of the services, even if that source is unknown. Titles, character names used by a person, and other distinctive features of radio or television programs, motion pictures, newspapers, or magazines may be registered as service marks notwithstanding that they or the programs, may advertise the goods of the sponsor.
2. Why do I need a trademark or service mark?
Trademarks and service marks enable customers to find a business and identify the business with the product or service that they provide.
3. How do I register a mark?
a) Submit an Application for Registration of a Trademark or Service Mark.
b) Submit three identical specimens used in commerce with the indentifying mark.
c) Include the proper filing fee.
4. What is the filing fee to register a trademark or service mark?
The filing fee is $15.00 per mark, per class.
The fee for a renewal is $5.00.
The fee for an assignment is $3.00.
5. Can I reserve a trademark or service mark before using it?
No. A mark must be in use prior to submitting the application for trademark or service mark registration. For trademarks, the goods or products must be on sale in the marketplace in order for the mark to be eligible for trademark registration.
For service marks, the registrant must be rendering services before registering with the Secretary of State.
6. Does registration with the Secretary of State’s Office prevent others from registering the same or similar mark in other states?
No. Registering your mark with the Secretary of State’s Office only applies to the state of South Carolina. Please consult with an attorney to determine in you need additional state or federal registrations.
Nationwide trademark, copyright and patent information is available by calling the United States Department of Commerce Patent and Trademark Office at 1-800-786-9199 or visiting the web site at http://www.uspto.gov/.
7. Does the Secretary of State’s Office investigate counterfeit marks and the fraudulent use of registered trademarks?
Yes. Please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at (803) 734-0629 with any information or complaints concerning trademark violations.
8. How long does the trademark or service mark last?
A trademark or service mark should be renewed every five years.
9. Are marks assignable?
Yes. Please refer to SC Code Section 39-15-1135
10. What are the hours of the Secretary of State’s Office?
The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.
11. How do I file documents with the Secretary of State’s Office?
Documents should be mailed to or sent UPS/FedEx or hand-delivered to:
SC Secretary of State's Office
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201
The acceptance of a trademark or service mark for registration by the Office of the Secretary of State provides the owner with a right to use such mark in the state of South Carolina on the goods and services identified in the registration application. However, the Office of the Secretary of State does not search other state or federal registrations, Internet domain names or other common law (unregistered) users. Therefore, rights granted by the state registration may be affected or preempted by prior use or other registration of the mark.
Registering a corporate name with the Secretary of State Division of Business Filings does not provide an exclusive right to use this corporate name on or in connection with any product or service. Use of a name as a Trademark or Service Mark will require further clearance and registration and be affected by prior use of the mark.