USPTO Trademark Search
Trademark attorneys at the USPTO will do research prior to granting protection to a proposed mark. The purpose of the research is to make certain that the mark is not currently being used in commerce (“in use”). If so, the mark does not solely belong to the applicant and cannot be federally registered. Federal registration provides nation-wide protection. Registering a mark that is already used by another business would conflict with that business’ common law rights.
Common Law Protections
The proposed mark may still be protected under state common law. If the conflicting mark is not used (placed in commerce) in a given jurisdiction, the applicant may be able to secure common law rights in the jurisdictions where the conflicting mark is not used in commerce. This will establish priority for the mark in that jurisdiction.
Conducting a Trademark Search
Begin a search by conducting a database search on the USPTO website. This will reveal any similar marks that have previously been registered. You can also do a paper or database search at a local Patent and Trademark Depository Library. These are federal database depositories located in many states.
You can hire third-party services that conduct comprehensive searches for you. If you don’t want to pay a third party, you can do a simple internet search through any available search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) Look for businesses that have products or services with similar marks. To examine similar products, you may search on Amazon or Ebay.
If you identify a mark that is very similar to yours, you may need to consult a trademark attorney to determine if your mark infringes on the similar mark. Remember, infringing on someone else’s mark can lead to significant legal damages and fees.