A business name trademark search is important as it can help ensure that your business or invention is available. The last thing you want to do is register a business name, pay for advertising, print out marketing materials, create a website, and begin expanding your business just to find out that you are using a name that is already being used by someone else.

  • Step 1. First, you’ll visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.

  • Step 2. Take a look at the trademarks that have been registered to date. To do this, you can visit the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, which is free to use and can provide you with information on which marks have trademark protection.

  • Step 3. Run a search in the public domain on trademark names. You’ll want to know how and where the trademark name is being used.

  • Step 4. Think about hiring a law firm. If you are a one-man business, then you may not have the financial resources to do so. But many businesses hire law firms to perform such comprehensive trademark searches to ensure that no mark exists on the name they want to use. Keep in mind that hiring a firm to do it for you can cost a couple thousand dollars.

  • Step 5. Visit ICANN.org, a website that provides a list of all trademark domain name registrars.

  • Step 6. Make sure that you search for unregistered trademarks. Even if a trademark is unregistered, its existence may prevent you from registering the trademark in your own name or from even using it legally.

  • Step 7. In addition to reviewing the USPTO website for current trademarks, you’ll want to run a search on your respective state’s website. You can visit the Secretary of State website to find out if the trademark is already being used and protected in your state.

  • Step 8. Document your research and searches. Even if you find trademarks on the name you want to use, you may in fact be able to still use it. Others, however, you may be prevented from using.

Registering a Trademark

You can register a trademark rather easily, as you simply need to fill out an application and submit it via the mail or online at the USPTO website. Generally, you’ll receive a response to your application within 6 months of filing. As previously mentioned, you’ll want to search the Trademark Electronic Search System to see if the name you wish to use is already in use.

If you submit your application, but you didn’t somehow notice that the name is already being used, your application will be rejected. The registration process itself costs between $275 and $325 depending on the type of goods or services that you will be offering through your business, as well as the type of design you are seeking for your mark.

Businesses operating solely online shouldn’t register their domain name (.com or .net) unless they plan on registering the mark both with and without the domain name. Obtaining a trademark without the domain name will help inhibit other companies from registering the same name by simply adding a unique extension.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I just need to search exact name matches on the USPTO website when searching for business name trademarks?

No, you’ll want to run partial name searches too, to ensure you have exhausted all of the searches. For example, there could be someone using a similar trademarked name. Once you register your name, assuming you didn’t run a search, the person who has been using the similar name may contest your trademark. Due to the common law trademark rights, that person may be able to prevent you from using the name you want to use. This could also lead to a potential lawsuit down the line if you don’t stop using that name.

2. Why do I need to perform a trademark search?

You want to run complex searches to avoid potential future infringement legal suits.

3. What is a preliminary trademark search?

A preliminary trademark search is conducted before you choose whether or not to spend the time and money on protecting your mark.

If you need help with running a business name trademark search, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.