A little known fact about the USPTO trademark database is that you can use it to dig up information about your competitors.
First, run a search.
Using the USPTO’s search tool, you can search for trademarks similar to yours, names of applicants/competitors, and other search terms. Then, skim through the results to see if anything looks relevant. However, unlike when you search for potential trademark conflicts, in this case you want to look for “live” and “dead” marks. This is because we are trying to learn about your competitors, not so much about the marks themselves.
Second, enter the TSDR.
Once you have pulled up an application or registration, click on “TSDR” in the upper right corner.
The initial page will give you a summary of the registration or application. This can be helpful, but the next step is better. Click on the “Documents” tab at the top of the page to reveal all of the records relevant to that registration/application.
The documents in this tab contain all kinds of information that might be useful to you.
You can learn about whether your competitors are using an attorney to handle their application by looking at the correspondence information. You can learn whether your competitor was denied in the application process and how they responded to the same. You can also review the specimens and evidence of use which they provided the USPTO to obtain a registration, which may provide useful information to you in terms of what they are selling and how they are marketing their goods/services.
You may also accidentally stumble on another party that objected to your competitor’s application. If you see that, then you can dig further to see what marks they own or claim to own and what arguments they made against your competitor’s application.
Then, after you have dug up all of this useful information, you can use it in several ways. You can use it to better prepare your own application and you can use it to improve your marketing strategies once you learn what your competitors or doing or are planning on doing.
And if you need help reviewing these documents, you can always seek the advice of a trademark attorney.
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*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.