How to Check to See If a Business Name Is Trademarked

By Brenna Davis

Trademark law protects intellectual property, such as business names. Trademarks are an important means of identifying goods produced by a particular company and an essential part of any branding campaign. Many trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but not all trademarked names are registered. Unregistered trademarks may be protected by the Lanham Act and common law trademark protections.

Trademark law protects intellectual property, such as business names. Trademarks are an important means of identifying goods produced by a particular company and an essential part of any branding campaign. Many trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but not all trademarked names are registered. Unregistered trademarks may be protected by the Lanham Act and common law trademark protections.

Step 1

Look for a trademark symbol accompanying the business name or mark you are inquiring about. Registered trademarks are frequently denoted by a circle with an "R" inside. Unregistered trademarks are commonly denoted by placing a "TM" symbol next to the trademarked item. Not all trademark owners elect to use these symbols, however, so the lack of a symbol does not necessarily mean the item is not trademarked.

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Step 2

Contact the business owner to determine if the item is trademarked. This is often the most effective and easiest way to verify the trademark status of a name or other mark. If it isn't already trademarked, the business owner can tell you if the company intends to trademark the item in the near future.

Step 3

Conduct a trademark search with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can access the Trademark Electronic Search System online. Use the "Basic Word Mark Search" function to search for business names. You can search based on business name or trademark holder. To conduct an in-person search, visit your local Patent and Deposit Library Office and ask to search the trademark catalogs. An employee can run a search for you; typically, a fee is charged for searches run by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office employees.

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How to Search Trademark Names for Restaurants

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Registered vs. Unregistered Trademark

When you register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you get automatic legal protection against the use of your mark without your permission, an act known as "infringement." However, a trademark doesn't have to be registered with the USPTO to qualify for legal protection. If you're the owner of an original, unregistered trademark, you might be able to take legal action against an infringer. If you win an infringement case, you're entitled to money damages from the other party.

What Are the Four Parts to Obtaining a Trademark?

Your trademark tells your customers that your products come from you. It distinguishes your goods and services from those of others. You can select a word, phrase, symbol, design or any combination of these elements to serve as your trademark. The strongest trademark is a fanciful, made-up word or image that is not confusingly similar to another party's goods. There are four basic steps to obtaining a trademark.

Difference Between a Logo & Trademark

Trademarks include company names, logos, slogans and designs used to identify and distinguish a company's goods in its business trade. The physical mark can be a word, sign, symbol or design that identifies the trademark owner. A trademark must be a unique identifying mark, specifically associated with the goods or services that a company offers in commercial trade. One type of trademark includes the company logo. A logo can qualify as a trademark -- if it meets the minimum requirements. To qualify as a trademark, a logo must be a unique mark used to identify and distinguish the company's goods or services offered in the marketplace. Strong logos often become easily recognizable trademarks throughout society.

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