Anyone interested in obtaining a copyright must first conduct a copyright trademark search. A trademark can be a phrase, name, logo, device, or any grouping thereof that is used as an identity or distinguisher to a person or company’s unique product that differentiates it from products sold by competitors.

In order to determine if your mark has already been copyrighted, you must first conduct a nationwide copyright trademark search. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“U.S. PTO”) makes available a public search engine, called the Trademark Electronic Search System, that shows what marks are copyrighted and in what category they are registered in. This search engine can be found at

Oftentimes, a majority of companies will employ law firms to undertake a comprehensive review of all copyrighted trademarks. Depending on what type of mark is at issue, this search can cost thousands of dollars. If an individual wants to conduct a search on his own, it will probably not be as comprehensive, but sufficient nonetheless. Alternatively, an individual can choose to use Thomson’s SAEGIS database, which charges a nominal fee but is also a good search engine.

Even if a mark is unregistered, it is still important to conduct a copyright trademark search because a mark that is unregistered but still exists could possibly prevent a person or company from registering their mark and using it legally. If a person or company uses a registered or existing mark, they will be in violation of someone else’s trademark rights. If that party sues for infringement, a court may find that the person or company willfully infringed and knew the mark was registered (even if they did not know), and could result in a payment of the trademark owner’s attorneys’ fees and money damages.

State Trademark Searches

When a person conducts a federal search for copyrighted trademarks, it is advised that they also conduct a statewide trademark search. Thomson’s SAEGIS database, mentioned above, is able to run a search across several sites that search for marks in all fifty states. This search engine can be found at State trademark searches are invaluable, especially if a person conducts business in all fifty states.

These are some of the top FAQs surrounding copyright trademark search, answered below:

  • Why Run a Search for Similar Trademarks?
  • What Information Will Each Search Give Me?
  • What if my search shows no matching marks?

Frequently Asked Questions: Why Run a Search for Similar Trademarks?

It is advised that a person or company conduct a copyright trademark search to see if there are similar trademarks already registered before they waste their time and spend a ton of money filing an application. It is also better to modify a mark earlier in the process as opposed to investing years into the mark only to find out that it is unusable. By doing this simple search, it can avoid duplicate applications for a mark that is already registered. If an application is filed and rejected, none of the costs associated with that application are refundable.

Frequently Asked Questions: What Information Will Each Search Give Me?

The Trademark Engine Federal Trademark Search will analyze data submitted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and will review direct matches, similar designs or appearance, phonetically similar results, or similar in terms of translation.

The Trademark Engine Federal, State & Common Law Search will analyze the U.S. PTO’s database, as well as the database for all fifty states, a business database and a domain name database.

The Trademark Engine Global Search will analyze the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) database, the Canadian Federal Trademark database, the European Community database, the France Federal database and the German Federal database.

Frequently Asked Questions: What if my search shows no matching marks?

If your search comes up relatively clean, it is a good step in the right direction. However, the search cannot guarantee that the mark will succeed through the copyright trademark process. A search may have failed to identify a registered mark that a patent agent deems qualifies as a reason to reject your application. In other circumstances, a search may have failed to identify a common law trademark that is similar to your mark.

If you need help conducting a copyright 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.