Trademark Search Before Adoption
A comprehensive trademark search is designed to discover potential trademark infringement claims against your intended mark and any barriers to registration of your intended mark. The search looks not only at the exact mark you intend to use, but also marks that may look or sound alike, have the same meaning, have a similar commercial impression, are in related goods or services, or may cause a likelihood of confusion.
The trademark search CAN’T wait! Before you spend your first dime developing your brand identity, put on the brakes! You need to ensure your intended brand identity isn’t already being used by someone else in your industry. You don’t want to spend thousands building your business, only to have to start over. Brand Identity assets must be researched before you adopt them.
How do you research your potential brand identity ideas?
- Start with Google. What pops up in the results when you search for your intended name or tagline?
- Search social media platforms. Is someone on Facebook or Instagram using the name or tagline you wanted? They may have common law rights to that mark even if they haven’t filed for trademark registration.
- Go to the USPTO website. Search for federal trademark registrations on your potential name or mark. Performing an appropriate search in TESS (the USPTO search platform) can be tricky, so you might want legal assistance with this one. Just because the exact name you want isn’t listed on the trademark register doesn’t mean there isn’t a confusingly similar name. Marks that look alike, sound alike, have the same meaning (even if translated from another language), or create the same commercial impression may be denied trademark registration because of a likelihood of confusion. These marks may also create a risk of trademark infringement.
- Search state corporate bureau records in the states where you plan to do business. Do other businesses already use the same or a similar name?
- Search state trademark databases in the states where you intend to do business. Has anyone else filed a trademark registration for the mark you want to use?
- Check out domain name registrars such as GoDaddy or NameCheap. Is the domain name you want available? If it isn’t, that’s a red flag that someone else is already using your intended mark. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can just buy the .biz or .net version and you’ll be fine. Because it’s likely you won’t. If you run into issues with your intended name or logo in these places, consider choosing a different name.
Get Legal Help!
If this sounds like an onerous amount of work just to use a name, please rest assured, it IS! No matter how thorough you think your search is, you likely won’t uncover half of the potential concerns that an experience trademark attorney will. Trying to do this on your own can take valuable time away from your income producing activities. And you may still miss something. Invest in a professional trademark clearance search before you set up your business entity. And before you pay good money for a designer logo and website. It will be money well spent!
Once you’ve cleared your intended mark and started using it, you need to take steps to protect it! Filing for a trademark registration is one action step you can take to legally protect your brand.