The best way to perform a trademark search is to use an attorney experienced in trademark law or the services of a search firm. Of course, prior to paying for a professional search, it is advisable to perform a preliminary “knockout” search on your own. Here’s how to get started.
First, search “common law” sources such as online search engines, social media, domain names, trade publications, relevant magazines, news websites, phone books, and similar sources. You should search your mark and also similar marks. For example, if your mark is “Two Step Bar and Grill” you should also search for “Too Step/s,” “2 Step/s,” etc. There are thousands of places like this you could search and a professional can provide immense value when searching common law records because they have access to large databases of common law sources.
Second, you may want to run state searches. While not nearly as vital as a federal trademark registration, the state trademark databases can be helpful, particularly in the home state of the client. Specifically, each state will have official business name records and many also have their own state level trademark registration databases and also fictitious name registrations. Those sources will usually be found through the Secretary of State’s website. And if you plan to expand to more than one state, then search those additional states also.
The USPTO Database
Lastly, and most importantly, be sure to search the USPTO database. But be forewarned, searching USPTO records can be a daunting task. Many clients think it’s a simple task… it is anything but simple. For example, a basic search for “Delta” reveals almost 2,500 results. But with a few quick tips, we can make it easier to perform this search. Trademark professionals often use sophisticated software to search the USPTO database and compile search reports. For a quick examination on the USPTO database first click on “Trademark Search” on the USPTO Trademark Website.
Once there, you have several options. You can run a “structured” search to find narrow results or a “basic” search to find broader results. To keep things simple, let’s go with a basic search. You can make a few selections on this page. You should usually search for “Plural and Singular” rather than just “Singular” and you might consider searching just “Live” marks. A “Live” mark is a registered mark or a mark currently in the application process. A “Dead” mark is a mark that was refused registration or a mark that was once registered but at some point lost the registration. (extra tip: you shouldn’t ignore dead marks altogether because they can revel interesting facts about prior users, litigation, and sometimes current users that simply lost a registration)
After you’ve run your search you will likely find a list of marks. You should examine the potentially similar marks to see if they are associated with any goods or services similar to your goods and services. If they are, you might have trouble registering your mark. But remember our prior lesson about how similar marks can be registered if they are applied to different goods and services.
You can spend hours in the USPTO database. When you get stuck, contact an expert. And feel free to call on Mighty Marks® if you want assistance with your search.
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.