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.
Whoa! Let’s back up a step…
How Do You Even Know You are Entitled to Use Your Chosen Trademark?
What if another entity has prior legal rights to use a trademark that is identical or confusingly similar to your mark? What would you do if you were sued for trademark infringement? How would you feel if you were ordered by a court to discontinue using the mark you created? What would happen to the all of the time, money, and effort you invested into building your brand? Would you even have the resources necessary to develop and implement a new trademark?
These are difficult and scary questions for all business owners who have poured their heart and soul into building their enterprises. After all, your trademarks identify you. Your identity is what ultimately generates inquiries, drives sales, and builds consumer loyalty. It is not difficult to see how being forced to change your identity could be a devastating blow to the continued operation and success of your business.
Fortunately, there is a step you can take to minimize (but not eliminate) the risk of losing all of the goodwill and public recognition associated with your valuable trademarks, as well as the significant amount of money and time you put into the creating and publicizing your trademarks. That step is a trademark search.
Avoid Costly Setbacks by Performing a Proper Trademark Search
Your first investment in a particular trademark should be to conduct a federal trademark search. You can do a preliminary federal trademark search yourself using the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). However, this quick “knock-out” USPTO trademark search is only intended to uncover any obvious conflicts. In other words, the job of this search is to determine whether it is worthwhile to invest in a more comprehensive federal trademark search.
A comprehensive federal trademark search is generally performed by a trademark attorney. A comprehensive trademark search always includes a thorough and in-depth search of the Trademark Office’s records that is designed to catch trademarks that would be considered “confusingly similar” to your mark. This federal trademark search may also be supplemented with a state trademark registration search and/or a common law trademark search. But, most importantly, any trademark search performed by a trademark lawyer should include a legal opinion as to whether your mark potentially conflicts with any other marks revealed in the search and whether your mark is available for registration with the USPTO. Your trademark attorney will be able to coherently explain to you the significance of the search results and will advise you as to the probability of being granted a United States trademark registration for your mark should you choose to file a trademark application.
By the way, there are multiple categories of trademarks that are ineligible for federal registration under any circumstances Your trademark lawyer will be able to determine if your desired trademark falls into one of these categories, thereby preventing you from wasting time and money preparing a trademark application that would just be swiftly rejected by the Trademark Office.
The bottom line is that investing a little money upfront in something more than just a preliminary or “knock-out” trademark search will help to ensure that the much larger investment you will make in your business and brand over the years does not get undone by an expensive and time-consuming trademark infringement lawsuit.
Additional Questions about the Trademark Search Process?
I’m US trademark attorney Morris Turek. If you have any questions about why performing a trademark search is so important to the successful clearance and ownership of your trademarks, please contact me today for your free consultation. I may be reached via email at email@example.com, by phone at (314) 749-4059, or through my contact form (below). I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.