Avoid legal problems and stress by ensuring you do not infringe on another person or company’s trademarks.
Essentially, trademarks are precious symbols and words that businesses create to make their products and services easy to identify.
So, you need to make sure that the trademark you are looking to use for your business is not already registered to another person or company.
In the unfortunate case that it is, you will save yourself a lot of trouble and stress by choosing a different trademark.
The Importance of Looking Up a Trademark
You cannot use a trademark for your business if it is already registered by another company. If you decide to move forward without first looking up your trademark, using a registered trademark puts you at risk of being sued for trademark infringement.
In some cases, trademark infringement claims cost up to tens of thousands of dollars and take several months to resolve. On the other hand, you can avoid litigation; but you risk heavy financial losses changing and marketing a new name, services, products, and website. Luckily, you can avoid these costly, time-consuming obstacles by merely performing a trademark lookup before you start your new business.
You can increase the chances of your trademark application being approved if you perform a trademark search first. Most denied trademark applications are caused by the “likelihood of confusion” with a trademark that already exists.
More specifically, there is a likelihood of confusion if two trademarks are similar and used for similar goods or services. Therefore, if the general public might assume both products or services came from the same source, there is a high chance the second similar trademark will not be granted.
By performing a quick and easy United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark lookup, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars from nonrefundable trademark application fees, as well as the thousands of dollars it takes marketing a business.
How to Perform a Registered Trademark Search
Luckily, the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) makes searching trademarks free and accessible. Although searching direct names may be easy, trademark research is more complicated than one may think. So, you may need assistance in researching more effectively and efficiently.
You want to perform a trademark search to discover marks that seem similar to yours and applied to similar goods or services.
Moreover, it’s essential to keep in mind that trademarks can be deemed similar without being exact. For instance, the USPTO offers “T.Markey” and “Tee Marquee” as examples of similar names that look or sound alike. So, when performing a trademark search, you must look for exact matches and alternate word endings or spellings.
Identical registered trademarks are only permissible if the goods or services are unrelated. For example, Delta Airlines and Delta faucets use the same trademark but offer completely different products and services in entirely different markets. However, goods and services that relate or are sold together may not be approved. For example, coffee and donuts, or clothing and shoes, mustn’t have similar trademarks as they cater to the same or similar markets. Therefore, you must check to see if any similar trademarks offer products or services that might fall into the same or similar category as your own.
Performing a Trademark Check
To perform a trademark check, visit the USPTO website, go to TESS (as stated above), and decide on a search option. You can search by trademark names or design marks like logos. If you are searching for a logo, you will need to research your design code. Design codes can also be found on the USPTO website using the Design Search Code Manual.
With TESS, you can name search with plurals. However, it cannot show you words that sound the same but are spelled differently. It is up to you to perform multiple searches using any similar name variations you can think of. For starters, you should search the exact trademark name you are looking to obtain, as well as any trademarks that contain the words in your name.
It would also be helpful to take notes while you are doing your search. Make a note of any similar trademarks registered for goods or services that relate to your own. Take a look at the USPTO’s Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual to learn more about how to determine the international trademark class various goods and services fall into. Doing so will assist you in your search by identifying which goods and services are most similar to yours.
Get Help and Expand Your Research
While searching for your exact trademark might be easy, finding variations in name and spelling can prove to be much more challenging. Even worse, design searches are more difficult to perform.
Hiring a professional to help you conduct your research will undoubtedly save you time, as well as provide you with a more refined, complete search summary.
Even if you decide to perform the search on your own, you may discover a similar registered trademark that might be hard to determine its similarity to your own. Unfortunately, this uncertainty may lead you toward a denied trademark application or, worse, a trademark infringement claim. If you are uncertain about your trademark search results, it is best to contact a trademark lawyer for advice on moving forward. This will ensure you don’t invest any money or time in a faulty trademark.
Lastly, it is crucial to note that a USPTO trademark search will only reveal registered trademarks—not common or state law rights. You should consult a lawyer to determine whether your trademark is accepted in a particular region so that you can protect and use your trademarks with certainty.
Stanzione & Associates, PLLC is an intellectual property law firm with over 30 years of experience protecting corporate entities, start-ups, and individual inventors. Stanzione & Associates, PLLC stands above other Intellectual Property law firms because of Mr. Stanzione’s extensive experience working at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a supervisory level patent examiner. At Stanzione & Associates, PLLC, we have the insight and long-term relationships with the USPTO to work well with patent examiners to achieve quality patents.