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.

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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.

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.