A trademark search is the first required step in the process of trade marking a word or phrase. This is followed by filing your trademark application. To learn about the entire process see how to trademark.
If you are going to file for a trademark you absolutely must do a
search first. A search is used to determine if your trademark has
already been registered. The same trademark cannot be registered to two
or more parties.
If you find that your trademark is already registered to another party you could be violating someone else's property rights by using the mark. If you are planning to use this trademark or are currently in the marketplace with the mark you should consult professional advise on what to do next.
There are three types of trademark searches that can be done to determine if you will be able to register your mark. These include a common law search, an electronic search and a physical on site search.
A common law search is a search done outside of the federal
registry. This includes places like the internet, phone directories or
state registries. This type of search is done by simply looking for your
mark in commerce. Is someone using your name on the internet? Does a
company have the same brand as you do? It is good to find out as easily
and inexpensively as possible before you spend too much money promoting
Some people will tell you that a common law search is not necessary. I have not found that to be true. I have had one or two trademarks denied because of a common law search. The trademark names in question were not registered but they were being used in commerce. The trademark office sent back the rejection with the publication showing use in commerce by another company.
The company was using the mark therefore they enjoyed what is called common law rights. Common law rights come from USING the mark in commerce. In general, whoever first uses a mark in commerce has the ultimate right to use and registration. This is one of the reasons that you should not heavily invest in a trademark until it is registered. There is always some risk that you could be using someone else's property.
TESS is the online search directory for the US Patent and Trademark
Office. It is very easy to search for trademarks at this site. Simply
enter your search term and submit your query. The search engine will
return word marks that have your search term in them. Examine the marks
that are closest to your mark and determine if they are live or dead.
Live means that they are actively registered and being used. Dead means
they have been abandoned and are likely available for you to use and
Once you have identified a mark that is similar to yours click on it. The owner of the mark, the filing date and the category of the mark will be listed.
The final way to search trademarks is at the PTDL. There are one or more of these library locations in every state in the US where you can go to search trademarks. I have never been to one of these libraries to do a manual search and I cannot think of a reason that I would want to given the capability for searching on the internet.
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