With a registered trademark search, an individual or business searches through all registered trademarks to see whether similar or identical marks are already registered. This is critical to avoiding issues with trademark infringement when you go to market. Though the search process can be straightforward, there are some finer points to consider in order to ensure that your trademark application will be accepted.

Trademark Search Database

Using the trademark search database is an important — though not required — part of submitting a trademark application. You can use the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark database to check whether any other person or business has already registered the mark you want to use. You can also look for similar registered marks that may lead to issues with infringement in the future.

If you do find a conflicting mark, whether it's an exact match or a similar match, check to see if it's active or expired. If the mark is inactive, you can move forward with your application without fear of infringement. Keep the following considerations in mind as you search the database:

  • Searching for trademark availability isn't the same as searching for a domain name. You'll have to search for existing domain names outside of the USPTO's trademark database if you plan to register a website with your trademarked name.
  • The USPTO will conduct its own search of the database during the application examination process. An application that conflicts with a similar mark will only be rejected if it's for related products or services. Identical marks are acceptable if they distinguish unique goods or services.
  • The USPTO's search is an excellent resource, but the organization won't advise you about whether there are any issues with your application. You'll need to research carefully on your own using the Trademark Electronic Search SystemIt's free to search through the USPTO database.
  • If the content you want to trademark has a design element, you'll need to use a design code for your search. Refer to the Design Search Code Manual for help finding and using your USPTO six-digit design code.

If you need assistance performing a search, you have a couple options. First, you may contact a private trademark search firm to help search through the database. Google or check the phone book for trademark search services or patent and trademark search services. Second, you may work with a trademark attorney to perform a thorough search.

How to Perform a Trademark Search

The first step to performing a trademark search is to define the class that you want to register. You can find this information using the Trademark Class Search Tool. After entering what type of product or service you want to register, the tool will tell you the class or classes for your trademark(s). Once you have this information, you can perform a trademark search.

To search for similar results to your desired trademark, try typing alternate spellings of the name. Substituting an “S” for a “Z,” for example, may yield names with subtle spelling differences. Note that many countries don't have online trademark databases. You'll have to visit a local Trademark Office and ask for a list of international trademarks.

Is It Mandatory to Hire an Attorney for a Trademark Search?

You don't have to hire an attorney to perform a trademark search. However, these professionals can help you understand trademark law and ensure that you don't infringe on any existing marks. They can also help you register a trademark and check that all the necessary information is included and accurate in your application.

Preliminary Trademark Search

Perform a preliminary trademark search to confirm that applying for a trademark will be worth your time and money. With this search, you want to check for any conflicts with existing marks. However, whether another mark is already registered isn't the only factor that the USPTO considers when deciding whether to approve your registration application. This is another reason why working with a trademark attorney is important.

Broad Trademark Search

After your preliminary search, perform a broad trademark search. The market is saturated with unregistered and common law trademarks, and it's easy to infringe on someone else's intellectual property if you aren't thorough with your research. You may also need to consider the international marketplace, depending on your products and services and where you want to do business.

If you need help with a registered 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.