Updated November 11, 2020:

Illinois trademark search verifies that a mark is available for use. This eliminates future problems such as duplicate trademarks, lawsuits, and possible financial loss. The Illinois Secretary of State website provides an online portal where applicants can find detailed information about trademarks.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark creates brand recognition through words, phrases, images, symbols, slogans, or a combination of these components. This unique identifier allows consumers to easily recognize a business's products or services. A trademark obtained in the state of Illinois grants the owner protection throughout the state. While a trademark protects a product, a service mark protects offers provided by an organization.

A trademark can protect a brand's name, logo, or design, prohibiting other companies from using the mark. Once a trademark or service mark is recorded in the state of Illinois, a company is then able to display the trademark symbol, “TM,” or service mark symbol, “SM,” next to their name or logo. Trademarks are considered active the first time a company uses them to distinguish themselves from their competition. Misuse of another company's mark can result in a lawsuit, or court-issued warning to stop using the trademark and pay back all profits earned under that company's mark.

To obtain a trademark, applicants should follow the following steps.

Illinois Trademark Search

It is vital for a business to search for a trademark prior to registering for one to make sure it is available for use. At the state level, trademarks can be searched through an online resource provided by the Secretary of State. This resource offers in-depth reports about trademarks that include information like:

  • The registration number.
  • The type of mark.
  • A description of goods and services.

U.S. Trademark Search

The process for obtaining a federal trademark starts with the United States Trademark and Patent Office, or USPTO. A company can perform a national trademark search through the USTPO's free online database. To avoid all possible trademark conflicts, however, it is recommended that companies also search for existing trademarks by using the following resources:

  • State-wide online records.
  • Local and national company registrations.
  • Product-specific records.
  • The internet to look for related merchandise.

When in doubt, contact a trademark lawyer who can perform a detailed investigation and provide legal advice.

Evaluate The Illinois Trademark Registration Requirements

After the search is complete, a company is then able to register their trademark. To file for an Illinois state trademark, applicants must complete and file Form TM/SM-15, the State of Illinois Trademark or Service Mark Application, and an application fee. The mark must be filed under the applicant's name. An applicant can be a business or individual, but businesses must clarify if they are a corporation, partnership, or LLC. The applicant has to provide information including:

  • A list of the products or services the mark will be used on.
  • Details on how the mark is being used, such as in a marketing campaign.
  • An illustration and sample of the brand's mark that shows how it will be used.

Trademark Registration

A business can choose also choose to register a federal trademark.

Federal trademark registration is done through the USTPO and has several advantages. Federal trademarks offer a wider range of coverage, including nationwide protection and extended rights on foreign imported goods. Applications submitted on the federal level also have higher priority than state applications. However, registering through the USTPO is more complicated than filing on the state level. The online application can take several months to years to finalize, in which case it is recommended to hire an attorney, resulting in additional costs.

Trademark registration through the state of Illinois is cheaper and simpler. The process is quick, taking about four to six weeks to complete. There are, however, many disadvantages to registering a trademark in Illinois. The Illinois Trademark Act protects trademark infringement, allowing businesses to take legal actions such as a cease and desist order or lawsuit against those that infringe upon their trademark but only for infringements the state of Illinois. Furthermore, the trademark is only protected in the geographic areas where the mark is being used, not the entire state. Also, federal trademarks have more power than state-issued trademarks, so a state trademark may not defend your brand against infringement from another business with a federal trademark.

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