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Need help with a Trademark Search?
What Is a Trademark Search?
A trademark search is a database search, usually conducted on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, to determine whether a trademark is currently used in commerce. Trademarks are a design or expression that represent a company. Trademarks, along with patents and copyrights, are considered intellectual property and therefore need to be protected.
If two trademarks for two separate companies are too similar, consumers will not know which goods are from which company. For this reason, there are laws in place that protect registered trademarks from being duplicated.
If a company would like to register a trademark, they first must search to make sure their design is not too similar to any other company’s trademark.
Trademark searches can be broken down into two types of searches. A “knock-out search” and a “full search”.
Knock-out Search: This search conducted on the Federal Trademark Register through USPTO. This will help you determine whether the trademark will be accepted during the trademark registration application process.
A knock-out search will search trademarks that are registered and that have been applied for but not yet registered. This search will show identical or close matches for the trademark.
Full Search: A full search is completed by a searching firm that will use specialized computer software to run and extensive trademark search. Search results will include identical trademarks as well as close variations of the trademark. These reports can sometimes be hundreds of pages long and after they are compiled into a search report, an intellectual property lawyer or a trademark lawyer will review the results.
How Do I Run a Trademark Search?
It is good practice to run a preliminary search on your own before consulting with a professional. It is common to have your first or even second choice of trademark already registered and being used. If you can determine this with your own search, you will get more value from a professional when it is time to dig deeper.
To conduct a trademark search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, follow these steps:
Step 1: Go to the USPTO website- You will want to navigate to the USPTO website then find the Trademark Electronic Search System which is abbreviated as “TESS”. This can be found in the “tools” section.
The search system will only allow a certain number of users to run searches at a time. If you wait too long, you will be logged out of this page and will have to start again.
Step 2: Select your search option- Once you have logged onto TESS, you will select a search option. You can choose from the following options:
- Basic Word Mark Search
- Word and/or Design Mark Search (Structured)
- Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form)
- Browse Dictionary
- Search OG Publication Date or Registration Date
It is recommended you use the Word and/or Mark Search (Free Form) because it provides the most search flexibility.
Step 3: Determine your search terms- You will now have to enter your mark into the “search term” box. Start with your exact mark first to see if you get an exact match and can eliminate that option for a trademark.
You will want to be sure that phrases are in quotes to narrow your search results. If you don’t have quotes, the search engine will return results for all words individually in the phrase rather than the phrase as a whole.
Step 4: Be thorough- When you submit a trademark application , your mark will be denied depending on the likelihood of confusion” with another registered mark. This means that you will not only have to search for your exact trademark, but also for any related trademarks that are too similar. You can do this by searching variations of your trademark. Try different spelling, abbreviations, and plurals.
Step 5: Expand your search to partial matches- If you haven’t found a direct knock-out yet, expand your search. You can use a prefix and postfix truncation search to see if the words in your mark turn up any partial matches. Remember these tips when searching for variations of your trademark:
- Foreign words may have different spellings
- Proper Names can be spelled in many ways
- Check for vowel and consonant substitutions (using a “K” instead of a “C”)
- Check for word and number substitutions
- Look for common abbreviations (“EZ” instead of “easy”)
- Use “$” or “?” in your search to represent optional characters
Step 6: Review your records- After running all of your various searches, narrow down the results and review them. The TESS system will provide a summary list of records found. This summary will provide you with the record number, serial number, registration number, word mark, TARR, and whether the mark is “live” or “dead”, for each of your search results.
For each of your results you will be able to view the following information:
- Image- This is the image of the trademark or pure word trademark
- Word Mark- Any words included in the trademark
- Translation- If the trademark is in a foreign language, it will be translated to English
- Pseudo Mark- USPTO refers to any misspelling of a common word as a pseudo mark
- Goods and Services- This is a list of all the goods and services associated with the trademark
- Mark Drawing Code- Information about the type of drawing like design only, design plus words, or stylized characters
- Design Search Code- 6-digit codes to categorize design elements
- Serial Number- Unique to each trademark
- Filing Date- Date the application was filed
- Filing Basis- Which law the application was filed under, this can include use in commerce, intent to use, foreign application, foreign registration, or Madrid protocol
- Owner- First and last name and address of the owner of the trademark
- Attorney of Record- The attorney associated with the trademark registration
- Type of Mark- A trademark can be listed as a trademark, service mark, collective mark, or certification mark
- Register- A trademark is either principal or supplemental
- Live/Dead- Indicates if the trademark is currently in use
Checking For Trademarked Names
There is no search engine or one place to search for conflicting business names. Often, a business will just start using a trademark whether it is registered or not. However, there are a few different ways you can search the internet for the same or similar business names.
National Trademark Searches
To run a national trademark search, use the USPTO search engine available on the USPTO website. You can enter your desired business name into the search field to find results of exact or similar names already registered.
State Trademark Searches
Local state and county searches can be done on your state’s division of corporation’s website and sometimes even a county clerk website. You can search corporations and fictitious names to see if any other businesses in your state have a similar name.
Analyzing Search Results
When you search the federal database for registered trademarks, it is common to turn up hundreds of results. It is important to narrow this search to effectively identify trademarks that are relevant to your potential trademark.
This requires that each search result be analyzed for similarities in sound, appearance, meaning, and trade channels used for the trademark. After analyzing all these qualities, it can be determined whether your proposed trademark will infringe on an already registered trademark.
It is common for an intellectual property lawyer to analyze the results of the search and make a determination and recommendation about the proposed trademark.
Image via Pexels by Guillaume
Who Needs a Trademark Search?
Any person who is applying for a registered trademark needs to conduct a trademark search. The most common reason that a trademark application is denied is due to the proposed trademark being too similar to an already registered trademark.
Furthermore, anyone who plans on using a trademark, even unregistered for business should conduct a trademark search. Trademarks are protected as intellectual property and using a trademark that copies or is too similar to a registered trademark can leave a person open to a lawsuit.
Conducting a thorough trademark search will help ensure an applicant is approved for trademark registration and protect a business from infringing on another business’s intellectual property.
Get Help with A Trademark Search
Do you have questions about conducting 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.
Meet some of our Trademark Search Lawyers
Attorney Greg Corbin is the founder and principal of Signal Law in Denver, Colorado. A top-rated trial and transactional lawyer with more than seven years of total legal experience, Mr. Corbin provides exceptional counsel and support to clients across the greater Denver metro and surrounding areas who have legal needs involving any of the following: business and corporate law; contracts and agreements; incorporations, partnerships and other entity formation and dissolution services; and ongoing business counsel for emerging and expanding commercial enterprises. Utilizing the latest in cost-saving technologies and advanced automation, Mr. Corbin has established his practice as a modern law firm ready for the future, and he strives to provide the highest level of representation to his clients and help them achieve their goals and the favorable outcomes they seek as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. He has gained a reputation for his innovative solutions as well as his transparent pricing structure and responsiveness when dealing with his clients. In recognition of his outstanding professionalism and service, Mr. Corbin has earned consistent top rankings and endorsements from his peers as being among the top lawyers in his region for business law and transactions. A 2008 graduate of Kansas State University, Mr. Corbin obtained his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 2013. The Massachusetts Bar Association admitted him to practice that same year, and the Colorado State Bar Association admitted him in 2015. Mr. Corbin is an active member of the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado State Bar Association, among his other professional affiliations, and he supports his local community through his involvement with Project Worthmore and Biking for Baseball, where he serves on the boards of directors.
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Atilla Z. Baksay is a Colorado-based attorney practicing transactional and corporate law as well as securities regulation. Atilla represents clients in the negotiation and drafting of transactional (e.g. master service, purchase and sale, license, IP, and SaaS agreements) and corporate (e.g. restricted stock transfers, stock options plans, convertible notes/SAFE/SAFT agreements, bylaws/operating agreements, loan agreements, personal guarantees, and security agreements) contracts, in-house documents (e.g. employment policies, separation agreements, employment/independent contractor/consultant agreements, NDAs, brokerage relationship policies, and office policy memoranda), and digital policies (e.g. terms of service, privacy policies, CCPA notices, and GDPR notices). Atilla also reviews, and issues legal opinions concerning, the security status of digital currencies and assets. Following law school, Atilla practiced international trade law at the Executive Office of the President, Office of the United States Trade Representative, where his practice spanned economic sanctions enacted against goods originating in the People’s Republic of China valued at $500 billion. Afterwards, Atilla joined a Colorado law firm practicing civil litigation, where the majority of his practice comprised of construction defect suits. Today, Atilla's practice spans all corporate matters for clients in Colorado and the District of Columbia.
After graduating from The University of Chicago Law School in 2002, Clara spent eight years in private practice representing clients in complex commercial real estate, merger and acquisition, branding, and other transactional matters. Clara then worked as in-house counsel to a large financial services company, handling intellectual property, vendor contracts, technology, privacy, cybersecurity, licensing, marketing, and otherwise supporting general operations. She opened her own practice in September of 2017 and represents hedge funds, financial services companies, and technology companies in a range of transactional matters.
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