How to Check a Name for a Trademark

By Joe Stone

The primary reason to conduct a trademark search is to avoid using a name for your business that cannot be registered with the federal or state government. Before using the name, it is important to check whether the name, or a very similar name, is currently in use. You can check the records of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for federally registered trademarks. State registered trademarks can be checked in the records of the state agency overseeing trademark registration. You should also research the market area where you do business to search for unregistered trademarks currently in use.

The primary reason to conduct a trademark search is to avoid using a name for your business that cannot be registered with the federal or state government. Before using the name, it is important to check whether the name, or a very similar name, is currently in use. You can check the records of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for federally registered trademarks. State registered trademarks can be checked in the records of the state agency overseeing trademark registration. You should also research the market area where you do business to search for unregistered trademarks currently in use.

Federal Trademark Search

Step 1

Locate the "Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)" on the USPTO website by clicking "search marks" on the Trademarks Home page. This is the system in which you will search for federally registered trademarks and pending trademark applications.

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Step 2

Click on the "Basic Word Mark Search" feature of TESS. On the next page, type the name you want to search in the "Search Term:" box. By leaving all other queries in their default settings, your search results will include all similar names -- not just identical names -- currently registered or in the application process.

Step 3

Review the results of your search of the USPTO records regarding the goods or services associated with each name in your results by clicking the link next to it in the "Check Status" column and scrolling down the subsequent page. This is to determine whether any of these names are used on goods or services for which you intend to use your name.

State Trademark Searches

Step 1

Locate the website for the state agency that oversees trademark registration in the states where you intend to do business. This is typically the secretary of state.

Step 2

Search the state's registered trademark database to determine if there is a state registered trademark similar to your name that was not registered with the USPTO. Some state agencies, like the Indiana Secretary of State, provide the information online Other state agencies, like the Connecticut Secretary of State, require that trademark search requests be submitted by mail.

Step 3

Conduct an on-site review of the state agency's registered trademark records, if the state agency does not offer searches either online or by mail. Depending on your circumstances, this may require the use of a commercial trademark search service.

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The Trademark Search Process

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Use TESS for Trademark

A trademark is a unique symbol, phrase or word used to distinguish one brand of goods or services from another. Technically, a trademark is protected as soon as it is used to conduct business, although registering the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides additional advantages. In any case, a search of the agency’s Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS, can help to ensure a duplicate mark does not already exist.

How to Obtain a Trademark

You obtain a trademark by using a logo, word, slogan or design that is associated with a product or service provided by your business. The key to establishing a trademark is using it actually and continually in commerce. The strength of your trademark rights depends on the uniqueness of your trademark, how long it has been in use and the size of the geographical area where the trademark is used. Although not legally required, registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the maximum legal rights and protection for your trademark.

How to Find Out If a Name Has Been Trademarked

Trademarks need not be registered to receive legal protection. The process of trademarking names involves determining the current use of the name, service or goods associated with the use, and geographic location, including international locations, of the person or business using the name you wish to trademark. You can trademark a name when your product or service differs from its current use -- and the geographic region you plan to cover is different from the territory used by the current name holder. Researching trademarked names, and names in current use, requires the exploration of a number of outlets and publications, including government and private print and online resources and databases.

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