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United States trademark search

How to Do a US Trademark Search

By John DiGiacomo

Trademark clearance searches are a crucial initial step in establishing and registering a trademark. If you think that you have created a good trademark — a word, phrase, design, logo, mark, etc. — it is essential to ensure that your proposed trademark is not already in existence and not already being used.

Under trademark law, you cannot use a trademark owned by another. This is called trademark infringement and will result in an infringement lawsuit which could result in significant civil liability. Aside from potential infringement liability, you will not be able to register your new proposed trademark with any US trademarking governmental agency. One clear rule is that a trademark cannot be registered if the trademark is the same as another trademark already registered or that is confusingly similar to one already registered.

Note that there is some nuance with respect to this rule since you CAN use a trademark that is similar to another as long as the two trademarks are used with very different and distinct types of goods and services. For example, DELTA AIRLINES can coexist with DELTA FAUCETS because they are related and associated with very different types of products. There will be little danger of consumer confusion.

So, how does one conduct a United States trademark search? As described below, trademark searching can be time-consuming and a bit of a hassle. So, often it is easier and hassle-free and not all that expensive to hire a trademark law firm to conduct your trademark search. If you want information about a trademark search, call us here at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100 or 855-473-8474.

In any event, understand that there are two levels of trademark registration in the US: federal level and State level. Trademarks are registered at the federal level by the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). At the State level, trademarks are generally registered by the various Offices of the Secretary of State. At both levels, searchable databases are maintained that contain all of the trademarks that have been registered. Thus, one important step in conducting a trademark search is to go to the respective websites, input your proposed trademark and search the databases. See here for the USPTO search engine. The USPTO’s search engine is called TESS, which stands for Trademark Electronic Search System. For examples of State level search engines, see here for the Texas version and here for the Iowa search engine. The search engines are relatively easy to use for word and phrase trademarks but become more difficult for design and logo searches. The USPTO has a “Design Search Code Manual” that is very helpful.

One pro tip is to know the trademark class that your goods or services belong to. This will help limit your searches. But, you should not limit your trademark search to only one class; searches must be done in similar classes and any class that is designated as a coordinated class by the registration office.

The federal government also operates another database at the Patent and Trademark Resource Center. That database should also be searched.

After government databases are searched, it is time to do some additional searching on the following:

  • Internet search engines using your proposed trademark and using image searching for any designs or logos — given the nature of general internet searches, it is difficult to narrow the search to classes and
  • The database for internet domain names operated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

Finally, to be as thorough as possible, it may be useful to subscribe to for-pay clearance search companies that will have access to non-public databases.

Contact the Trademark Attorneys at Revision Legal For more information, contact the experienced Trademark Lawyers at Revision Legal. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.

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