Are you choosing the name for your business or products? A trademark search is the first step to determining if another company is already using the mark. Imagine if you print labels and brochures, develop a website, run ads and spend valuable time building the reputation associated with a trademark only to discover that the name, logo, or slogan already exists. You’ll be forced to stop using it. Consider the additional expenses, time, and effort it will take to start over again. It can also get you into legal problems with the owner of the mark for trademark infringement.
To prevent this, business owners should do a trademark search before choosing and advertising a business name or a name for goods or services.
What is a trademark?
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): “A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It’s how customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish you from your competitors.”
Filing a trademark with the USPTO can give you the legal right under federal and state law to prevent others from using yours to promote their services.
How to do a trademark search?
Often, you can do a basic search on Google of the possible names you may use for your business, and it will give you an idea of whom and where it’s been used in your industry. There are also free and fee-based trademark search engines. For online businesses, you should search for domain names registered in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers at ICAAN.org. International search for trademarks is available in WIPO Global brand database.
The most important database, though, is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the federal agency charged with maintaining the national register of trademarks. The USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, known as TESS, is a database of every U.S. trademark that has been registered or applied for and is freely available.
The search requirement is based on either word or design. While you will be able to see all federally registered marks, you won’t be able to see the marks that are not registered but protected due to established use in commerce (common law).
Searching for trademarks at the USPTO’s website can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if you haven’t conducted trademark searches before. You must know the specifics of what you are looking for and where to look for it. The website interface is a little outdated and can be challenging to navigate. Therefore, consulting with an attorney experienced in trademark law is highly advisable.
“A trademark attorney can do a comprehensive search that includes common law references, which may require special expertise to identify and evaluate the mark, and be able to navigate the USPTO system,” said attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta
To register or not to register?
A common law trademark carries some legal precedent for the owner, who can prove through documentation that they have been using the trademark longer. But, if you want to gain the right to sue for damages for trademark infringement if someone else is using your mark, you must register it with the USPTO.
As you can see, proper trademark searching can be complex and overwhelming, but you don’t have to manage it alone. For assistance, you may wish to hire an experienced trademark attorney. If you have questions or would like to begin searching and securing the registration of a new trademark, contact attorney Marcos for a consultation at (480) 324-6378.
Attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta is a business, trademark, branding, patent, and intellectual property attorney. He practices with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Follow attorney Marcos at legalbizglobal.com.