A USPTO trademark search is a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office records. It will reveal pending trademark applications and existing trademark registrations that are active (live), as well as abandoned applications and canceled registrations that are inactive (dead).
Perform Your Own Search
You can perform a very basic USPTO trademark search yourself on the Trademark Office’s website (www.uspto.gov). Although this basic search will not reveal all confusingly similar trademarks, it is a very good starting point for your trademark research. All you have to do is type in the words that comprise your trademark and see what comes up. Unfortunately, if your trademark consists of very common words, it is possible that hundreds (if not thousands) of applications and registrations will be returned as results. If this happens, you may want to consider working with an experienced trademark attorney who can use a variety of methods to pick out the ones that are most likely to be cited by the Trademark Office as a basis for refusing registration of your trademark.
Trademark Search Results
The basic USPTO trademark search is sometimes called a “knockout” search because it will only reveal very obvious conflicts with your trademark. If you find such a conflict, then there is no reason to hire a trademark attorney to conduct a more thorough federal trademark search because he/she will quickly find the same problem you did. On the other hand, if your search did not find any obvious conflicts, or if it uncovered a few trademarks that are somewhat similar and you’re not sure whether they could be problematic or not, then that is when you should contact a trademark lawyer to advise you of any risks associated with using and applying to register your trademark.
Is it a Comprehensive Trademark Search?
One thing to remember is that a USPTO trademark search is not a comprehensive trademark search. For instance, it will not reveal any trademarks that have been registered only at the state level. Each state maintains its own trademark registry and it is possible that someone owns a state trademark registration for a mark that is identical or confusingly similar to your mark. In addition, a USPTO trademark search will not uncover “common law” trademarks that have never been registered at the federal or state level, but are being used in commerce in connection with the advertising and sale of products or services. Although the Trademark Office cannot cite state trademark registrations or common law trademarks as a basis for rejecting your trademark application, there is always the chance that an owner of a state registration or common law trademark could challenge your application during the trademark opposition period.
Of course, if you need some assistance with your USPTO trademark search, please do not hesitate to give me a call. As an attorney who focuses exclusively on trademarks, I can provide the guidance you need to streamline your search and help you avoid unexpected delays and pitfalls. I look forward to hearing from you soon!