The Trademark Search Process

By Joe Stone

Trademark rights are created when you begin using the trademark in commerce. Registration is not required to create trademark rights. The purpose of registering your trademark is to create valuable protections for your right to exclusively use your trademark; however, registration alone does not guarantee that you are the exclusive owner of the trademark. A business that began using the trademark before your registration can continue to do so. To avoid registering a trademark already in use, conduct a search for trademarks in use that may conflict with your trademark.

Trademark rights are created when you begin using the trademark in commerce. Registration is not required to create trademark rights. The purpose of registering your trademark is to create valuable protections for your right to exclusively use your trademark; however, registration alone does not guarantee that you are the exclusive owner of the trademark. A business that began using the trademark before your registration can continue to do so. To avoid registering a trademark already in use, conduct a search for trademarks in use that may conflict with your trademark.

Step 1

Search the trademark database maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which includes records of federally registered trademarks and pending trademark applications. The USPTO database can be searched online using its Trademark Electronic Search System. A search can also be performed on-site at any Patent and Trademark Resource Center, which are libraries located throughout the country that are used by the USPTO to receive and maintain federal trademark information.

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Step 2

Search state records for registered trademarks, trade names and corporate names to locate names with trademark rights used in state commerce. Such records are usually maintained at the secretary of state's office or other state-level government agency such as the department of corporations.

Step 3

Search public records for trademarks used in commerce that are not registered trademarks, trade names or corporate names. These records can be found in a variety of sources, such as Internet search engines, Internet domain name registries, trade publications, and yellow-page and white-page telephone listings.

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How to Trademark an Abandoned Trademark

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Resources

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How To Trademark Something

A trademark is a mark, symbol or combination of words that distinctively identifies a product or service -- McDonald's Golden Arches, for example. Trademarks have economic value because they represent the business reputation of the products they represent or the company with which they are identified. Registration of your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows you to obtain nationwide protection, sue in federal courts and qualify for international protection.

How to Check to See If a Business Name Is Trademarked

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.

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.

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