Trademark laws are put in place to protect the brand identity of established businesses. These laws prevent new companies from being able to enter the market under an existing name, or making a similar product with the same name, which could potentially confuse consumers. Violation of these laws could not only result in being forced to change the name of your business but also result in a court order to pay damages to the trademark holder. A simple way to prevent this from happening to your business is to check the business name for existing trademarks before you start using the name. Follow these simple steps to see if any trademarks have been filed on the name you wish to use.
Go to the web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can get there by pointing your web browser to www.uspto.gov. This office is responsible for issuing, recording and enforcing all patents and trademarks filed within the United States.
Scan the navigation menu that goes across the top of the screen. Look for the menu item that reads "How To Search." Click on this link.
Begin your trademark search. The page you are on has a variety of search related options. The left side of the screen features options that relate to patents, and the right side of the screen features trademark related items. Look at the top of the right column for the link that says "Search Trademarks now." Click this link to be taken to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Choose the type of search you would like to perform. TESS offers five different ways to search the trademark database. The simplest search is the "New User Form Search," and the most complex is the "Free Form Search." You also have the option to simply browse the entire database name by name. Select the search method that best suits your needs.
Perform your search. On the search page, simply enter any keywords pertaining to the name you would like to look up, or just type in the name itself. After entering the search term and selecting any other options that apply, click "Submit Query" to begin your search. A list of search results will be returned that lists all possible matches for the name you are searching for.
- Just because a business has not registered a trademark does not mean you can take the name away from them by registering it yourself. Trademark laws are set up around a "first use" principle, which means that the first person to use the name in commerce has absolute rights of use, whether a trademark has been registered or not.