The name of your company can be a crucial element for long-term success. Whether your company is a tech giant or a small start-up with offices in the garage, choosing the right name for your business and brand can mean the difference between success and failure. For every GOOGLE, NIKE and STARBUCKS, there are a thousand name brands that fizzled before they even started. Regardless of size, the best way to ensure that the name you want is available and protected for exclusive use in connection with your goods or services is to search your trademark name, and apply for federal trademark registration. But how exactly does one know if the name they want is already taken or available for use and registration? The best way to start is by conducting a trademark search.
A trademark search helps you to identify potential problems in pursuing a particular name, phrase, design or symbol. A professional trademark search checks current trademark databases, business directories, and other registries to ensure that the trademark name you want to use has not already been filed for registration or used by someone else in the same category you plan to use it. For example, if you would like to trademark CAMPER for use in connection with shoes, a trademark search would reveal that there is already an active trademark registration for CAMPER covering shoes and apparel. In this instance, there is an exact match for the name you are considering, so that name is obviously not a good trademark choice. The complications arise, however, when there are similar marks (in appearance, sound or spelling) that may be easily overlooked by the untrained eye.
There are several ways to conduct a trademark search but two of the most popular options available are a knockout search or a comprehensive search. A knockout search highlights obvious obstacles that one might face when applying for a trademark, like the CAMPER example. A federal knockout search reveals whether there is an exact matching trademark already registered or pending registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark (USPTO). While simple and cheap, you can even do it yourself at no cost, a knockout search is limited and can be misleading if you don’t know what to look for. It may show that there are no matching trademarks registered or pending for the name you want to register, but keep in mind that the standard of review for trademarks and trademark registration is a likelihood of confusion. The most important determination in trademark law is whether the average consumer in the marketplace, seeing two (or more) similar marks used in connection with the same or related goods, would likely be confused as to the source of those goods or services.
A comprehensive trademark search, on the other hand, is the broadest method of trademark searching and generally includes federal trademark records, state trademarks and other commercial uses of the trademark name that could affect your right to use and/or register the name. A comprehensive search includes the exact mark you would like to register, as well as any variations of the mark that may trigger a likelihood of confusion. Our professionally trained trademark attorneys have over twenty years of combined experience in trademark searching and can help you to identify potential risks and obstacles in the trademarking process. Our comprehensive trademark search service includes registered trademarks and pending applications as well as non-registered commercial usage (what’s known as common law trademark use) and variations or translations of your mark so you can be more knowledgeable of potential conflicts in the trademark registration process or potential trademark infringement actions from others. You can also proceed in building your brand more confidently when you know what else is out there (which is hopefully not much).
Risk reduction, unnecessary expenses, and avoiding lawsuits are among the benefits that come with doing a proper trademark search. The earlier you search your prospective trademark name, the sooner you can determine whether it’s a winner, or whether you should go back to the drawing board. In waiting to search your trademark, you risk losing valuable time and money spent on labeling, packaging, branding and marketing. We offer the free trademark search tool on our website as a starting point for you to conduct your own “knockout” search and eliminate obvious duds before selecting a name for registration. Our Comprehensive Trademark Search and Application package includes a search of the federal trademark database, trademarks in all 50 States, domain name registrations and common law uses, as well as an Attorney Opinion Letter explaining the search results and how they may affect your ability to use and/or register the name you want.