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How To Do A Trademark Search

Updated: March 28, 2023
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Trademarks are a type of intellectual property businesses take advantage of to protect their brand. In order to receive a trademark, there are many steps you need to take before filing a trademark application. One of these steps is conducting a trademark search.

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about registering a trademark, including how to do a trademark search.

What Is a Trademark Search?

A trademark search is a search that is done before registering a trademark to make sure that your proposed trademark is original. This is a database search usually conducted on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.

A trademark is any design or expression that is used to represent a company. A trademark can utilize a word, a symbol, a phrase, or any combination of these designs. Trademarks are considered intellectual property, and when they are registered with the USPTO, the owners have exclusive rights to the trademark and legal protection from others utilizing the mark for their own benefits.

The purpose of a trademark search is to ensure that your trademark design doesn’t infringe on a design that is already being used in commerce. A well-conducted trademark search will help your trademark application process run more smoothly. It can also protect you from litigation due to infringing on someone else’s intellectual property.

To find out if a trademark application is right for you, check out this article .

Trademark Definition

A trademark is a design made up of words, symbols, or phrases, that identifies your company or brand. It is a way that customers can distinguish your goods and services from your competitors.

A trademark plays a vital role in your business because a trademark:

  1. Identifies your business as the source of your goods and services
  2. Provides your brand with legal protections
  3. Helps protect you against fraud

If you would like to read more about what a trademark is and why they are important, click here .

How To Do a Trademark Search

There are two types of trademark searches referred to as knock-out searches and full searches.

Knock-out Search

A knock search is a search that most people can conduct on their own using the Federal Trademark Register through USPTO. This is usually a preliminary search that will identify registered trademarks that have been applied for but not yet registered. A knock-out search will show identical or close matches for your proposed trademark so you can quickly identify if you need to redesign your proposed mark.

Full Search

A full search can only be completed by a searching firm using specialized computer software. This is a much more in-depth search than a knock-out search and will return results that are identical to your proposed mark as well as close variations. Many people seek the assistance of an intellectual property lawyer to help organize the full search reports because there can be hundreds of pages of results.

To start a trademark search on the USPTO website , follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Locate the USPTO website. Go to uspto.gov and locate the Trademark Electronic Search System or “TESS.” This can be found under “Trademarks Application Process.”
  • Step 2: Select a search option. You can choose from the following options to conduct your search using TESS:
    • Basic Word Mark Search (New User)
    • Word and/or Design Mark Search (Structured)
    • Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form)
    • Browse Dictionary
    • Search OG Publication Date or Registration Date
    • The Free Form Word and/or Mark Search provides the most search flexibility, but it is essential to know what terms to enter for the best results.
  • Step 3: Search your terms. Using the search box, enter the key terms of your mark. Phrases should be put in quotations to narrow your search results. If any matches are generated, you know that your phrase is already trademarked, and you will have to come up with something new.
  • Step 4: Expand your search. If you haven’t found an exact match to your proposed trademark, you should expand your search. You can utilize prefix and postfix truncation searches to see if the words in your mark turn up any partial matches. Your application can be denied if your mark is too similar to an already registered mark. The more thorough a search you conduct, the more confident you can be that your application will be approved.
  • Step 5: Review. After running all searches, review your results. The TESS system will generate a report of records found. From this report, you can see each search result’s record number, serial number, registration number, word mark, TARR, and whether the trademark is “live” or “dead.”

Sometimes, a trademark search can populate hundreds of results. The ability to narrow your search when you review your results will help you find the most relevant trademarks. When analyzing trademarks, look for similarities in the following categories:

  • Sound
  • Appearance
  • Meaning
  • Trade channels

These categories will help you determine if your mark infringes on a registered trademark.

Running a knock-out search using the USPTO website is a great place to start your trademark search. This search allows you to find similar trademarks to your own quickly. It is not uncommon to have your first or second trademark design already registered. The USPTO database allows you to identify and eliminate these initial matches.

If you are unsure about analyzing your search results, contact an intellectual property lawyer or a trademark lawyer to assist you.

If you choose to hire an intellectual property attorney or searching firm to assist you in your trademark search, this preliminary search will allow you to save money and time. A professional can skip the knock-out search and jump right into the extensive full search.

Read this article for more information about conducting a trademark search.

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Checking For Trademarked Names

There are several ways to check for trademarked business names, like national trademark searches and state trademark searches. However, it is common for a business just to start using a name without checking to see if it is already a registered trademark. This can lead to legal issues for the business owner down the road.

  • National Trademark Search. Use the search engine on USPTO to search nationally for a trademarked name. This search is done just like the trademark search previously described.
  • State Trademark Search. Many states have a webpage for their division of corporations. It is common to be able to conduct a state or county search from this site.

Another option to check for a business name that is already being used is to contact the county clerk or see if they have a website. It is often required by law for a new business to register their company with their county or state to be a legally operating entity.

Click here if you have questions about filing an international trademark application.

See Trademark search Pricing by State

Who Needs a Trademark Search?

If you are applying for a registered trademark, you need to conduct a trademark search first. Although it is not technically required, it will save you a lot of time and money in the application process. The number one reason why trademark applications are denied is that the proposed mark is too similar to a registered trademark. A thorough trademark search can help you avoid this issue.

Those who plan to use a trademark without registering it with USPTO should also conduct a search. Infringement on intellectual property is a serious matter. If you use an unregistered mark that copies or is similar to a registered mark, the owner of the registered mark can take legal action against you.

Get Help with A Trademark Search

Do you have questions about how to complete a trademark search and want to speak to an expert? Post a project today on ContractsCounsel and receive bids from intellectual property lawyers and trademark lawyers who specialize in trademark searches.

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