I like to think of a free trademark check as the very first step in the trademark search and clearance process. It provides some basic information that helps determine whether it makes sense to take the next step and conduct a comprehensive federal trademark search to potentially find conflicts, issues, and other problems that could negatively affect the cost, time frame, and ability to successfully register your trademark. Without question, everyone should at least do a quick trademark check before adopting, using, and applying to register a name, phrase, or slogan. I also firmly believe that everyone should do one prior to hiring a trademark attorney. This is because you don’t want to pay a few hundred dollars in legal fees just for your attorney to find an obvious conflict in two minutes that you would have easily found had you first performed a trademark check yourself.
Whether you’re preparing to start a new business, or are currently operating a business, you’ve likely created a distinctive name, logo, and/or tagline to represent your company and your products/services. This unique designation – known as your trademark – differentiates you from your competition and helps establish your reputation in the marketplace.
Your trademarks symbolize and encompass your identity, as well as the qualities and characteristics of your offerings. You’re going to use your primary trademarks in all of your marketing and branding efforts, including on your website, social media profiles, printed advertisements, signage, and perhaps even on product packaging. Your ultimate goal is to build positive brand awareness, and your trademarks are the vehicles that allow you to do this.
A USPTO trademark search is simply a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s records. It will reveal pending trademark applications and existing trademark registrations that are active (live trademarks), as well as abandoned trademark applications and canceled trademark registrations that are inactive (dead trademarks).
If you’re like me, you wouldn’t want to pay for something that you could get for free. When it comes to performing a federal trademark search, a lot of people believe that using the free Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website is just as good as working with a trademark attorney who charges a fee for conducting a trademark search on your behalf. Well, let me explain the reasons why that’s not the case.
You want to conduct a US trademark search in order to determine the availability of a particular trademark for your exclusive use and federal registration. A US trademark search helps to minimize the chance of being sued for trademark infringement by someone who has rights in an identical or confusingly similar trademark. If you hire a trademark attorney to perform your trademark search, the attorney will provide you with a legal opinion indicating whether your trademark is available and what the risks of adopting and applying to federally register your trademark are likely to be.