How to Do a Trademark Search?

Are you looking to register your Trademark? You must run a Trademark search first to make sure your name is available. But, how? Lets find out!

When you’re starting a new business, a certain level of excitement and anticipation comes along with the milestones. Brainstorming new business names isn’t a fast process; you’ve probably poured your heart and soul into it, from the products you sell to the brand you’d like to be. While you likely can’t wait to share the news about your newest enterprise, it’s a great idea to check whether the name you’ve chosen is taken.

Starting a new business isn’t a new idea; in fact, business applications have been on the rise since 2010. In 2020, 4.35 million applications were submitted online. That’s a lot of potential business names to confirm. Conducting a trademark search can help you establish whether your business name is already in use, leaving you in hot water professionally and financially if not adjusted.

What is a Trademark?

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A trademark is classified as any phrase, design, symbol, or word used to identify your goods and services. Trademarks last for ten years from the time of approval. It’s how people recognize your brand, business, or products in the marketplace. It’s how you distinguish your company from the competition. Generally speaking, trademarks refer to goods, while service marks apply to services. These items help differentiate your company from others within your industry, providing legal protection and establishing your brand.

There are currently three types of trademarks available. The first includes Trademarks and Service Marks. These include words, symbols, and phrases that define the company’s goods or services. All service marks indicate a service, while the trademark is reserved for goods. The second option includes collective marks. These items are like trademarks, except they identify a larger group. With collective marks, all members of a group can benefit from an individual trademark. Finally, certification marks are any characteristics of a product. For example, a product that is 100 percent silk could fall under a certification mark.

A trademark protects a business or company by law if someone steals your logo, name, or idea. An unregistered trademark is any graphic, logo, image, or word that hasn’t been approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Companies can use a trademark logo to show the company has particular visual ideas.

What Can You Trademark?

Anything that helps a customer recognize your business or service in the marketplace is eligible for a trademark. Trademark owners must use it in commercial settings to receive protection by law. These might include a logo, label, product packaging, sound, product name, or business name. Those individuals who have a strong mark are more likely to have their trademark application approved. Consider distinct names, symbols, or logos when applying for a trademark.

Many people believe that a trademark is required to maintain a monopoly on a specific logo, name, or symbol. Thankfully, that’s not the case. A business controls an interest over a logo or name and any association between the services or goods.

Some trademarks are more complicated to register than others. Generic names, deceptive names, names pertaining to geographic location, or descriptive words that cannot distinguish from other products are exceptionally difficult to register.

What Can’t You Trademark?

Not everything related to business qualifies for a trademark. The law protects both goods and services, but applications have specific limitations to ensure fairness. Generic terms, phrases, or similar items cannot be trademarked. Likewise, anything immoral, deceptive, or scandalous does not qualify. Government symbols or the likeness of a U.S. President can’t receive a trademark either.

How to Perform a Trademark Search?

A trademark search can save you time, energy, and money long-term, making it an essential first step when setting up your business. To get started, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to perform a search:

Learn how to use the Trademark Electronic Search System

Before getting started, you’ll want to become familiar with using the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Visit the website and take a look around the platform.

Under the “Search Trademarks” menu, there will be an option that reads, “How to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).” Choose this option to get started.

Read Through the Guidelines

Take a look at the links to find helpful tips and techniques to start your search. You’ll find specific directions on using the basic word mark search functionality, how to perform the structured search, and how to complete a free-form search on the website.

Use the Trademark Electronic Search System.

Click on the link to access the TESS. The TESS is the federal trademark database that holds most records relating to trademarks. This system doesn’t contain all information, but you’ll find any federal documents concerning the specific trademarks entered.

Select Your Search Preference

Three search options are currently available on the website. The first option is the basic word mark search. This option is meant for search functions only on the words in the mark. The serial number, registration number, or owner name is also considered. This search function provides the most limited option but is the most straightforward to use.

The second option is the word and/or design mark search. This option is perfect for novice users that want more advanced functionality. You’ll be able to build your search terms while constructing your online search criteria.

Finally, the free-form word and/or mark search is available for anyone experienced in TESS functionality. This option provides the most efficient search options but requires users to set up the search entirely.

New users should start with the basic word mark search, as it’s easiest to use on the website. Users should consider all different name variations to ensure trademarks don’t exist under slight variations. This is particularly true for any industry with similar business name variations.

Adjust all fields as necessary

All search functionality requires terms or phrases to consider. New users should indicate whether the results should include living or dead trademarks and whether results should be singular or plural. You’ll also want to specify whether the search terms are exact.

Review the Results

Carefully look overall results for the search term you entered. If no results appear, a message indicating “No TESS records to match the criteria of your query.” To be sure, consider entering in similar terms. Pay close attention to any records found in the database. TESS is only the first step in your trademark search. Having no results display doesn’t mean the trademark doesn’t exist; particular situations may occur where a trademark owner doesn’t register with the federal database. The trademark is still active in this situation; it’s simply not posted or disclosed.

Consider State Records

An absence of federal TESS results does not mean that a trademark is available. Once you’ve reviewed the United States Patent and Trademark Office, always check state records. The majority of trademark records are kept and managed by the Secretary of State. Visit the Secretary of State’s departmental website for further search options.

Trademark FAQs

There’s a good chance that performing trademark searches isn’t any everyday occurrence. To help answer your most pressing questions, here are some frequently asked questions about the trademark functionality and how to get the most from your online search.

How to do a trademark search?

A trademark search needs to start with TESS. Start with the Word and/or Design Mark Search, as it offers the most flexibility. Try the basic phrases and keywords for your business when getting started. Expand the search boundaries to incorporate all variations of your business name.

How to do a free trademark search?

Searching through the federal database and state records are free to use. It’s important to remember that individuals must do state records through the Secretary of State’s website.

How to check a trademark status?

After searching the federal Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), all trademarks matching the results will display. When selecting “TSDR” in the results window, users can view all filing statuses for trademarks and associated documentation.

What is a dead trademark?

The “dead” trademark is any previously active trademark that has since become inactive. This status occurs when the trademark is reassigned, has lapsed in registration, or has become abandoned.

What is a TESS trademark search?

TESS stands for the Trademark Electronic Search System, found on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. All active and inactive registrations and application records are found on this website. Trademarks will not appear in results if an owner doesn’t register the trademark with USPTO.