Before you can complete a trademark for your company or product, be sure no one else is using the same mark.
Trying to come up with a name for your company or product? A trademark search is necessary to determine if another company is already using a trademark that is identical or similar to yours. This is significant for both word marks (company names) and picture marks (such as logos).
You wouldn’t want to choose a company name or logo, print brochures, run commercials, create a website, and build a reputation only to be compelled to change the name a few months later.
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National Trademark Lookups
What exactly is a trademark “search”? Many companies may employ legal firms to do extensive trademark searches in different electronic databases. Such a search may cost several thousand dollars depending on the kind of mark (word mark or picture mark) and its intricacy. However, you may do a simple trademark search without the assistance of a lawyer. In many circumstances, this is enough to locate the necessary information.
To begin, go through the trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the federal body responsible for maintaining the national register of trademarks. TESS, the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, is free and can show you what marks have been registered in certain trademark classes.
There are 45 trademark classes, which are basically marks divided into groups depending on the kind of item or service. Furniture, for example, is classified as Class 20, whilst tobacco items are classified as Class 34. If you are promoting a new form of smoking pipe, you should look for your mark in Class 34 since it is the applicable category. (If a furniture firm has a logo that is similar to the one you want to use for your pipe, this is not always a dispute since the commodities are in separate classifications. Customers will not be confused by your two businesses or items).
You should do a free Internet search in addition to looking for registered trademarks on TESS to observe how and where the name you want is being used. Often, a quick Google search will reveal any prominent firms in your field who are utilizing the mark. You might also utilize a fee-based trademark search engine, such as Compumark.
You may also utilize any domain name registrar to look for domain names used by Web-based companies. ICANN.org, the huge nonprofit organization that manages Internet governance standards and URL registrations, has a list of domain name registrars.
Searching for unregistered trademarks is vital because the presence of a trademark, even if it is unregistered, may prohibit you from registering the trademark in your own name or from using the brand properly.
You also don’t want to infringe on someone else’s trademark rights, particularly if the trademark is federally registered. In such situation, a court may presume you were aware it was federally registered, even if you were not, and you may be required to pay the trademark owner’s legal expenses as well as damages.
Registries of State Trademarks
In addition to searching the USPTO’s website for federally registered trademarks, you should also search your state’s trademark database. The state trademark database is often part of the Secretary of State’s office, although in certain jurisdictions it has its own department. It is normally feasible to browse the Secretary of State’s website for a state’s registered companies and trademarks, which may or may not also be federally registered as trademarks.
If you want to conduct business in more than one state, make sure to check one of the sites that searches for trademarks registered in all 50 states.
Investigating the Search Results
While your different searches may turn up hundreds of identical trademarks being used throughout the nation, you will need to know how to go through your findings and decide which trademarks you are really prohibited from using.
For example, if another firm is using the same or a similar name to promote other goods and services, you may be able to utilize the name for your own. However, it is less evident whether another organization uses the same or a similar name to offer identical services in a different section of the nation.
Keep in mind that the time and money you invest in a trademark search should be proportionate to the size and breadth of your company. A global corporation that aims to sell a consumer product must be meticulous; a little mom-and-pop store that wants to name a new kind of salad dressing for sale locally does not need to spend a fortune on trademark searches.