How to Use TESS for Trademark

By Karyn Maier

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.

Step 1

Look up the appropriate design codes that apply to your trademark on the United States Patent and Trademark Office's online Design Search Code Manual. Note that this step is necessary only if your mark contains design elements. If your mark is a standard character format -- a word or phrase that does not use a specific lettering style, spelling, font or other design elements -- you can skip this step.

Step 2

Launch the TESS database at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to choose your search options based on the format that applies to your mark. For standard character format, select “Basic Word Mark Search.” If your mark includes design elements, select the “Word and/or Design Mark Search (Structured)” option.

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Step 3

Enter your trademark word or phrase in the “Search Term” field and click on “Submit Query.” This action takes you to another page that contains a list of trademarks that match or are similar to yours, if any.

Step 4

Click on the trademarks in the list to see more details, such as registration number, filing date and the name of the owner of the trademark.

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Trademark Owner's Responsibilities
 

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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 Trademark a Catchphrase

A catchphrase is a slogan or tagline that identifies a person, group or business. Often introduced into pop culture by a memorable line spoken in film or on television, a catchphrase is “catchy” because the association with a product, service or personality is indelible. It’s a unique signature – as long as no one else has used it previously. Although your catchphrase is protected as soon as you begin using it for business, registering offers additional protection.

How to Find Out If Something Has Been Patented

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency responsible for reviewing applications and determining whether to issue a patent. Since the underlying purpose of a patent is to protect the inventor's rights to a unique invention, similar inventions will not receive a second patent. As a result, it’s imperative that you search the USPTO patent database to find out if something has been patented prior to filling out an application.

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