Trademarks are valuable words and symbols used by businesses to identify themselves as well as their products and services.
Before you begin using trademarks in your business, you must first determine whether a similar trademark has already been registered to someone else.
If it has, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and build a stronger brand by using a different trademark.
Why is a Trademark Lookup Is Important?
If you start a business with a trademark that another company has already registered, you will be unable to register that trademark for your company. Worse, you risk being sued for trademark infringement.
A trademark infringement claim could result in tens of thousands of dollars lawsuit that takes months to resolve. Alternatively, to avoid litigation, you may need to change your name (as well as your signs, packaging, labels, and website) and spend more money marketing your new identity. Conducting a trademark search before starting your business can help you avoid these costly and time-consuming issues.
If you intend to apply for trademark registration, a registered trademark search can help increase the likelihood that your application will be approved.
There is a risk of confusion if two marks are similar and used for related goods and services, leading the public to believe that they came from the same source.
A trademark lookup at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will identify similar and confusing marks, allowing you to choose a different mark before spending hundreds of dollars on nonrefundable trademark application fees or thousands of dollars branding your business.
How to Do a Registered Trademark Search?
Anyone can use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS, to search for trademarks for free. While searching for direct name matches is relatively simple, trademark searches can become complicated, and you may require assistance to conduct a more thorough search.
Marks can be similar but not identical. Names, for example, maybe similar if they look or sound the same. The USPTO gives the names “T. Markey” and “Tee Marquee” as examples of similar names. Look for alternate spellings and word endings, as well as exact matches, when checking trademark status.
If the goods and services are unrelated, such as Delta faucets and Delta airlines, it is possible to have identical registered trademarks. Clothing and shoes, for example, or coffee and donuts, are examples of related goods and services. As a result, if you come across a similar mark, you should also check to see if it has been registered for a similar type of goods or services.
Conducting a Trademark Search
Go to TESS and select a search option to search the USPTO’s trademark database. If you’re looking for a specific name, you can use the trademark name search. If you’re looking for a design mark, such as a logo, you’ll need to first look up your design code in the USPTO’s Design Search Code Manual.
You can look for plurals in a TESS name search. However, the search will not find words that sound similar to your trademark but are spelled differently. This means that to find similar marks, you’ll need to run multiple searches with as many variations on your name as you can think of. You can look for the exact name or any trademark containing the words in your name.
Examine the results of each trademark search for marks that are the same as or similar to yours. Make a list of similar or identical marks, as well as information about the types of goods or services for which they are registered.
Then make a note of any similar marks that have been registered for similar goods or services to yours. For information on how to describe goods or services and which international trademark class they belong to, consult the USPO’s online Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual. This can assist you in determining which goods or services are most closely related to yours.
Expanding Your Search and Getting Help
Finding exact trademark matches is relatively simple but discovering spelling and name variations can be much more difficult. Design searches can also be difficult.
A professionally conducted search can save you time and provide more comprehensive results than you could get on your own.
If your search turns up a similar registered trademark, it can be difficult to determine whether the similarity would invalidate a trademark application or lead to a trademark infringement claim. If you are unsure, seek advice from a trademark attorney before investing time and money in trademarking.
Also, keep in mind that a USPTO trademark search will only reveal registered trademarks. It will not find trademarks with state or common law rights that may impact your ability to use your trademark in a specific location. A more thorough trademark search will assist you in locating these marks and ensuring that you can confidently use and protect your trademarks.