Which Type of US Trademark Search is Right For Me?

us trademark search

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.

There are basically three types of US trademark searches:

1.  Common Law Trademark Search

The first is called a “common law” trademark search.  A common law trademark search will reveal trademarks that are currently in use but were never registered by their owners on a federal or state level.  This search is important because trademark rights are acquired by simply using the trademark in commerce in connection with products or services.  There’s no legal requirement that trademark owners register their marks.  Although a common law trademark search can provide you with a wealth of information, it’s often the most difficult and expensive search for a trademark attorney to conduct.  If you don’t have the resources to hire a trademark attorney to perform a common law US trademark search, you can at least do your own cursory common law search by utilizing Google, Bing, and some of the free online business directories.

2.  State Trademark Search

The second type of US trademark search is the state trademark search.  A state trademark search will reveal trademarks that have been registered in a particular state.  All fifty states allow trademark owners to register their trademarks with the Secretary of State’s office (or other government office), which results in the owner being granted statewide rights in their marks.  Unfortunately, many state trademark registries are not yet available online for general public searching.  In addition, it can be quite time-consuming and complicated to manually conduct a search of all fifty state registries.  And, finally, because state officials don’t perform a federal trademark search prior to issuing a state trademark registration, many of these registrations may be worthless if someone already owned a federal registration for a confusingly similar trademark.

3.  Federal Trademark Search

The third type of US trademark search is the federal trademark search.  A federal trademark search will reveal trademarks that are registered or pending in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The federal trademark search is recommended for all businesses because it’s relatively inexpensive and provides the most guidance as to whether your particular trademark is eligible for federal registration.  You can conduct a very basic trademark check yourself using the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) available on the USPTO website.  However, please be aware that this USPTO trademark search is not a comprehensive federal trademark search and the results should not be relied upon because the TESS search will not reveal all potentially problematic trademarks.  Therefore, you should always have an experienced trademark attorney perform a comprehensive federal trademark search prior to adopting, using, or attempting to register your mark.

Ready to Conduct a US Trademark Search?

I’m experienced US trademark attorney Morris Turek.  If you have any questions about which type of US trademark search is right for you, or would like to work with a skilled and knowledgeable trademark attorney who can provide you with peace of mind knowing that your trademark was properly searched, please contact me for your no-cost consultation at (314) 749-4059, via email at morris@yourtrademarkattorney.com, or through my contact form.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.