Before you chose a brand for you company, product, service, logo, print business cards, letterhead or signage you should do a trademark search.
There are many different types of trademark searches that can be done.
What is a Trademark Search
What is a trademark “search”? Many businesses will hire law firms to perform comprehensive trademark searches through various electronic databases. The cost will vary depending on the type of mark (a word mark or an image mark) and the type of search.
Online Trademark Search
You can do a basic online trademark search on your own, without the need for lawyers. In many cases, this is sufficient to find relevant information.
To start an online trademark search, look through the Tess system, which includes trademarks registered with the of the U.S. Trademark Office. The U.S. Trademark office is the federal agency charged with maintaining the national register of trademarks.
TESS is online and free. It can show you what marks have already been federally registered.
Free Internet Website Search
In addition to searching for registered trademarks on TESS, you should also do a free Internet search to see how and where the name you want is being used. Often, a simple Google search will provide good information.
You can also search for websites using different versions of the name or brand you are thinking about using. For example, if you are thinking about using the name transportation for transportation services and transportation.com is taken, you might need to pick a new name. If your name includes a “s” you might look at changing it for a “z” or use hyphens in your name.
Searching for unregistered trademarks is important because even if a trademark is unregistered, its existence could prevent you from registering the trademark in your own name or from even using the trademark.
One thing to keep in mind, just because someone doesn’t have a federal registration doesn’t mean they don’t have rights.
State Trademark Registries
In addition to checking for federally registered trademarks, it might be helpful to check various state registrations. Depending on the state, some state trademark databases are not available online. However, a quick phone call to the Secretary of State’s Office might provide an answer.
Hiring an Attorney
If you decide to work with an attorney when doing a trademark search, you can ask for a legal opinion as to whether your proposed mark is safe to use.
If you want to speak with one of our trademark attorneys about the results of your search or about assistance with a trademark application, call our office at 888-472-0020.