How to Check If Something Is Trademarked | Drishti Law

If you have a brilliant idea for a new product name or design mark, business name, or logo, it’s vital to ensure that it is not already trademarked by someone else. Although certain common law trademark rights for unregistered trademarks exist under U.S. Trademark Law, comprehensive protection requires federal registration.

Checking if someone else has a trademark registration is trademarked is a crucial step to avoid legal issues and protect your own brand’s identity. A registered mark at the USPTO grants you exclusive rights to use your brand name, logo, or tagline and prevents others from using them without your permission in the U.S.

But how do you verify if a trademark is registered? What are the potential pitfalls and risks? We’ll guide you through the process, explaining the importance of conducting a comprehensive trademark search, how to interpret search results, and what to do if someone infringes on your trademark rights. With this knowledge, trademark owners can confidently navigate the trademark search and registration process, protecting their brand and ensuring its long-term success.

Remember, trademark registration is an investment in your brand’s future. So let’s dive in and gain the clarity you need to protect your business.

Common Misconceptions about Trademark Protection

Before we proceed, let’s address some common misconceptions about trademark protection:

  1. Common Law Rights: Simply using a mark in commerce provides automatic common law trademark protection. While common law rights can offer some level of protection, unregistered marks are limited in scope and may not be sufficient to protect your brand on a broader scale. Registering your trademark at the USPTO provides more robust and comprehensive protection.
  2. Domain Name Registration: Registering a domain name does not automatically grant trademark protection. While domain name registration is essential for establishing an online presence, it does not provide the same level of legal protection as a registered trademark.
  3. International Protection: Trademark registration is territorial, meaning it is only valid in the country or region where it is registered. If you plan to expand your business internationally, it is crucial to register your trademark in each country or region where you will operate.

Understanding these misconceptions will help you make informed decisions when it comes to trademark protection. Now let’s explore the steps to verify trademark registration in more detail.

Importance of Verifying Trademark Registration

Verifying trademark registration is of utmost importance for several reasons. Let’s explore why it is crucial to ensure your mark is registered correctly:

  1. Legal Protection: Trademark registration provides legal protection and grants you exclusive rights to use your mark in connection with specific goods or services. Without registration, you may not have legal recourse if someone infringes on your mark.
  2. Preventing Infringement: Verifying trademark registration helps you avoid unintentionally infringing on someone else’s mark. By conducting a comprehensive search, you can identify potential conflicts and decide whether to proceed with your chosen mark.
  3. Building Brand Reputation: A registered trademark adds credibility and value to your brand. It shows that you have taken the necessary steps to protect your intellectual property rights and establish a solid foundation for building your brand’s reputation.
  4. Enforcement and Remedies: You have extensive legal remedies for trademark infringement claims. Registration allows you to take legal action against infringers, including seeking damages and injunctions to prevent further infringement.

By verifying trademark registration, you are safeguarding your brand’s identity and ensuring its long-term success. It is an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Here’s a Guide on How to Check if Something is Trademarked:

Start with a Trademark Search

Before proceeding with trademark registration, it is essential to conduct a comprehensive search to verify if your chosen mark is already registered. Conduct a database search to see if your desired mark is registered. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has an online database called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which allows you to search for registered trademarks. You can search by keyword, class, or specific criteria to find relevant results which show the mark’s trademark status.

This step is crucial for two reasons: avoiding potential conflicts with existing trademarks during the application process and determining whether your mark is eligible for registration. 

There are several ways to search for registered trademarks:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Database: The USPTO maintains a publicly accessible database called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This database allows you to search for registered trademarks and pending applications. It is a valuable resource for determining if your mark is already in use or if there are similar marks that may pose a conflict.

Click on Search our trademark database (TESS)
Click on Select A Search Option…

International Trademark Search: If you plan to operate globally or sell products internationally, it’s also essential to check for international trademarks. Some popular trademark databases include the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Brand Database and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Trademark Search, which allows you to search for trademarks registered in multiple countries. To conduct national trademark searches in specific countries, you should engage with local attorneys with the assistance of a U.S. Licensed attorney. 

Click on Find & Explore
Click on Global Brand Database
Click on Access the Global Brand Database
Click on Search by brand name ...

Professional Trademark Search Services: If you prefer a more comprehensive search, hire professional trademark search services. These services have access to extensive databases and can provide detailed reports on existing trademarks and potential conflicts. 

When conducting a trademark search, using different search parameters, such as the mark’s name, logo design code, or tagline, is crucial. You should also consider searching for similar marks that may pose a conflict, even if they are not identical.

Analyzing search results and determining potential conflicts

Once you have conducted a trademark search, you will receive a list of search results. It is essential to carefully examine these results and determine if there are any potential conflicts with your chosen mark.

When reviewing the search results, pay attention to the following factors:

  1. Similarity of Marks: Look for marks similar to yours in terms of appearance, sound, or meaning. Even minor differences can still pose a potential conflict and cause consumer confusion.
  2. Related Goods or Services: Consider whether the existing trademarks are being used in a similar industry or for related goods or services. If there is a likelihood of confusion between your mark and an existing mark, it may be challenging to register your mark.
  3. Prior Registration Dates: If a mark has been registered before yours, it generally holds more substantial rights. In such cases, it may be advisable to choose a different mark to avoid potential legal issues.

If you find a conflicting trademark during your search, consult a trademark law firm to assess the risks and determine the best course of action.

Hire a Trademark Attorney

One of the best investments you can make when verifying trademark registration is hiring a competent trademark lawyer. They can help you conduct a clearance search to ensure your trademark isn’t already in use. They can also perform a more comprehensive search utilizing industry-leading search services and interpret the results accurately.

A trademark lawyer can help you assess the difference between weak marks and strong marks as it relates to the spectrum of distinctiveness. Additionally, they can help you file the necessary paperwork and handle any legal issues that may arise during the trademark application process. They can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensure that your brand is adequately protected. 

Check State Databases

In addition to federal trademarks, some are registered at the state level. Each state has its own trademark database, which can be accessed through their respective Secretary of State websites. This is particularly important if you operate within a specific state or have plans to expand locally.

Checking state databases is particularly important if your business operates in a niche market or if you are targeting a specific geographic area. It helps ensure that your mark is not already in use within your target market and reduces the risk of potential conflicts. This is especially true for businesses in the legal cannabis retail, farming, and processing industry.

Use Online Trademark Monitoring Tools:

You can utilize online trademark monitoring tools to stay updated and keep an eye on potential trademark infringement. These tools can help you track new trademark applications and registrations that might conflict with yours. They send alerts when similar marks are filed, allowing you to take appropriate action if necessary.

Consult with Professionals

If you find a similar mark during your search, it’s advisable to consult with a trademark attorney or an intellectual property professional. They can provide legal advice on the potential risks and suggest strategies to avoid trademark conflicts. This step is crucial in protecting your brand and avoiding future legal battles.

Remember, checking if something is trademarked is a vital step in the branding and business development process. It helps you avoid potential legal issues and protects your intellectual property. By following these steps and conducting a comprehensive search, you can ensure your brand is unique and distinguishable in the market.