A search for logo trademarks helps you find existing trademarks that are the same or very similar to one you want to use. It's important to do a thorough search before registering or using a logo trademark to avoid the risk of infringement.

Check Your Logo Design Against Existing Logos

You can begin a search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. You'll be able to do it for free, but it will be time-consuming. Like a patent search, a trademark search requires time and care to do it correctly.

Trademark violation happens when someone tries to register a trademark that can be easily confused with an existing registration, especially that of a competitor. Typically, you can narrow down your search to entities in the same industry you're in.

Small and medium-sized businesses that have just a local presence don't usually have a problem with logo trademark conflicts. However, anyone with an internet startup or who plans to have national or international reach should invest the time and money into a thorough search to make sure he or she avoids expensive legal hassles or marketing embarrassment in the future.

It's unlikely that you'll run into problems as long as you don't have a similar logo as an existing competitor.

In the past, a logo trademark search done online was very expensive. It used to cost at least $1,000, but the price has come down with image recognition. If a person only does image recognition search, it's not a good, thorough service. To get a proper search, you should have a combination of knowledge/design code plus image recognition.

Many people go into using a name without finding out if they're legally clear to do so. They pour a lot of resources into marketing campaigns and publicity, only to find out they can't use the name/trademark later on.

It's a good idea to conduct a Comprehensive Search Study as a first step, before registering or doing business using a trademark. Getting complete search results can help you avoid any risks of litigation in the future.

If another entity is already doing business in your same channel or class, you don't want to use a trademark that's too similar to theirs. If you try and register a similar mark or use it without registering it, the other company might object to your use of the mark. They may decide to take you to court for trademark infringement, and if they win the case, you'll be prohibited from using the mark.

Conduct a Free Logo Search at the USPTO Site

  1. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
  2. Click “Trademarks” and then select “Searching Trademarks.”
  3. Navigate to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). The Design Search Code Manual is where you want to start your logo search. Design search codes are assigned to registrations and applications to help identify conflicting marks. In the Manual, you'll find indexes for sections, divisions, and categories.
  4. After you check the manual, use TESS to search the USPTO database. 

If you'd rather conduct a search in person, you can visit the Trademark Public Search Library located in Alexandria, Virginia. Check operating days and times, and if you require research assistance, it's available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Strong Marks Versus Weak Marks

After you establish that your trademark is unique and distinguishable from existing marks, consider its strength or weakness. This can help you predict any future infringement possibilities.

Your mark's characteristics play a part in how easy or difficult it would be for someone else to copy it for counterfeiting purposes or for a competitor to design a similar mark that's still legally permissible.

  • Strong marks don't employ commonly used words and terms to describe services or goods but instead may be fanciful, suggestive, or arbitrary.
  • Marks that are easy to counterfeit or reproduce are considered weak.

You may be able to register generic marks that employ well-known and popular words, but it can be hard to defend them as unique.

It's a time-consuming process, but searching for logo trademarks before you register your own is very important. It helps you discover existing marks so that you don't infringe on someone else's rights, and it can help you choose a strong design.

If you need help with searching logo trademarks, 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.