Trademarks are words and symbols that a business uses to identify themselves, their products, and their services.
Prior to using a trademark in your own business, you first need to know whether a similar trademark has been registered by someone else. Having this information can help you avoid time and money, and help you create a stronger brand image by choosing or creating a different trademark. A registered trademark search also increases your chances that your application will be approved.
If you begin to conduct business using a trademark that another business has already registered, not only will you not be able to register that trademark, but you risk being sued for trademark infringement.
A trademark infringement claim can lead to a costly and lengthy lawsuit. Or, in order to avoid litigation, you may be required to change your business name. You may also be required to create a new logo for your business and have to replace everything your logo appears on. This may include signage, packaging, labels, and your website. Conducting a simple trademark lookup prior to starting your business can help you avoid these expensive problems.
If two marks are similar and are used for related goods and services, there’s a risk of confusion that may cause the public to think that both came from the same source.
Performing a trademark lookup with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will identify whether there are any similar and confusing marks that exist. This will give you an opportunity to choose a different mark before you spend hundreds of dollars on nonrefundable trademark application fees or worse - thousands of dollars branding your business only to have to change everything later.
A trademark search is free on the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS. The purpose of doing this search is to find any marks that are similar to yours and used for related goods or services.
Keep in mind that marks can be similar without being identical. When you perform your trademark search, look for alternate spellings and word endings, as well as exact matches.
It's possible to have registered trademarks that are identical as long as the goods and services are unrelated. If you find a similar mark in your search you should also check to see if it has been registered for a similar type of goods or services.
To perform a search using the USPTO's trademark database, go to TESS and choose from the search options:
A TESS name search also allows you to look for plurals. However, the search will not find words that sound like your trademark but are spelled differently. In order to find similar marks, you will need to conduct multiple searches using as many variations of your name as you can think up.
It’s a good idea to keep a list of similar or identical marks, along with what types of goods or services they are registered for.
Once you have this information consult the USPTOs online Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual for information about how to describe goods or services and the international trademark class they fall under. This helps you identify what types of services or goods are most closely related to yours.
While searching for exact trademark matches is a simple process, finding spelling and name variations can be difficult. Additionally, design searches can also present a challenge. Working with a professional who can perform the search on your behalf will save you time and get you more accurate results.
However, if you prefer to perform the search on your own and are still uncertain, it’s recommended to consult a trademark lawyer for advice before investing time and money in trademarking.
**Disclaimer: The content used in the article is not to be used as legal advice and is for illustration and general informational purposes only. If you have questions about your particular situation, please contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.