Trademark Search – How to Save Time, Money, and Aggravation

Whether you are preparing to start a new business, or are currently operating a business, you have 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 are 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.

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What is a USPTO Trademark Search?

A USPTO trademark search is simply a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office records.  It will reveal pending trademark applications and existing trademark registrations that are active (live), as well as abandoned applications and canceled registrations that are inactive (dead).

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Why the Free USPTO Search Will Make You Want to Go Cliff Jumping

A couple of weeks ago, a prospective client called me to ask some basic questions about the US trademark registration process and its associated costs.  We started talking about the trademark he wanted to adopt and the products with which he intended to use the mark.  Of course, one of the first things we discussed was the necessity of conducting a comprehensive federal trademark search to learn whether another individual or entity already owns an existing federal registration for an identical or confusingly similar trademark.  Not unlike many other clients, he informed me that he had already conducted a USPTO trademark search using the free search tool provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and that he fortunately “didn’t find anything.”

I cringe every time prospective clients tell me they “didn’t find anything” after using the USPTO search tool because I know from experience how weak and unreliable that tool is.  This type of USPTO search will most often not catch variations of words, common misspellings, novel or intentional misspellings, verb conjugations, etc.  The free USPTO search tool is really only for finding identical trademarks, which I always encourage my clients to do prior to hiring me to conduct a more comprehensive federal trademark search to find confusingly similar marks (which is the legal standard for trademark infringement).  Clearly, there is little reason for me to perform my search if their USPTO search already revealed an obvious obstacle to registering and/or using their trademark.

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