A public trademark search isn't required to register a mark, but it's key to ensuring you aren't infringing on any already registered content. It will also decrease your chances of a rejection because you'll be able to confirm that your material is unique and distinguishable. Learn how to perform a trademark search and what you'll need to look for to help you with this process.

Trademark Search Database

Use the Trademark Electronic Search System to search through the USPTO database. Perform a complete search to find all identical and similar marks.

You may be able to proceed with your application even if you find a conflicting mark. First, check whether the mark is actively in use or has expired. If the original owner has abandoned the mark, you can proceed with your application. The USPTO performs its own search of existing trademarks to determine whether the intellectual property you want to register is unique and distinguishable. Second, your trademark may still be approved if an identical or similar mark is found but for different goods or services.

Note that the USPTO can't advise whether your mark is available until they perform their own search and decide whether to approve your application. This is why it's important to be thorough in your own search.

Marks With Design Elements

If you want to register material that has a design element, such as a logo, you'll have to identify your six-digit design code using the Design Search Code Manual. Use this code to search for similar designs via the Trademark Electronic Search System.

Your search will return relevant registration certificates. These documents show:

  • Who owns the mark.
  • When the owner first used the mark commercially.
  • The mark's registration and serial numbers.
  • How the mark may be used.

This information can help you determine whether a mark is still being used and if the protected goods and services are relevant to the intellectual property that you want to register under a similar or identical name.

If you need help performing a search, you can work with private trademark search services or patent and trademark search services. You may also reach out to a trademark attorney for help.

Search Databases

You can use the following databases and sources to check for pending, registered, and expired trademarks:

  • X-Search
  • Trademark Image Capture System
  • Trademark Reporting and Monitoring System
  • Trademark Trial and Appeal Board VUE
  • Official Gazette copies
  • Trademark assignment records
  • Microfilmed deeds
  • Online indexes

In addition to these sources, a complete trademark registration collection is available online and in physical formats. You can attend an X-Search class — which runs for three hours — to learn more about accessing the trademark system.

Trademark Class Search

To determine your trademark class, identify your core industry and describe the products or services that you want to protect in the clearest terms possible. After identifying a broad category, add any applicable fringe commercial activities. Add as many as needed; this will help define the rights that you want to protect.

Accurately determining your trademark class is key performing an effective search, submitting an application that the USPTO will accept, and securing the rights that you need.

Do I Need to Know My Trademark Class to Perform a Search?

You need to know your trademark class in order to perform a trademark search. With this information in hand, you can use the Trademark Electronic Search System. Simply change the filters to adjust your search and find out whether there are any conflicts with the material you want to register.

What Is the International Nice Classification (NCL)?

If you want to search for international trademarks, you can use The World Intellectual Property Organization's NCL. This system uses single classifications to group goods and services together (34 classes for products and 11 for services).

The system includes trademarks listed in multiple languages and across several countries. The USPTO and several other countries — 84 in total — follow the NCL protocol, and The World Intellectual Property Organization routinely updates this system.

Do You Need to Hire an Attorney to Perform a Trademark Search?

A trademark attorney isn't essential to conducting a trademark search. However, they can help you check all available databases, including internationally registered marks, to confirm that the marks you want to register are free to use. Also, if your search yields similar marks, an attorney can provide legal advice regarding how you can move forward with your trademark registration.

If you need help with a public 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, Stripe, and Twilio.