The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database is a free, searchable electronic database of submitted, approved, and abandoned trademark applications from the past three decades. Trademark lawyers and legal professionals search the database before submitting new trademark applications, to find out whether similar names are already registered or pending approval by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO publishes and maintains TESS, updating its more than three million federal trademark applications and decisions weekly. Applications made before 1984 are not included in the TESS database.

How TESS Search Works

The TESS search engine has 19 term fields and eight search operations for looking up information. The easiest way to use TESS is to do a Basic Word Mark Search, which lets you look for trademark applications and approvals, but not design marks. Advanced search options include adding plural and singular terms or searching for Dead or Live (or both) trademarks. The results come from the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval (TARR) server.

If you want to find both design marks and trademarks, use the Structured Word or Design Mark Search. Before searching for design marks, however, open the Design Search Code Manual to find the right code. You can decide how many results you want to see on one page. 

Experienced trademark search professionals, such as attorneys, might use the Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form). 

You can also use the site's Browse Dictionary function to search the Trademark Official Gazette (the weekly journal that lists recently published, renewed, or canceled marks) by publication or registration date. 

TESS Viewing Options

The TESS search engine features several user viewing options. The different fields and drop-down menus make it easier for you to filter your results and get exact matches. 

Use basic operations such as AND or OR to search for more than one term. Advanced functions for more specific search results include NOT, XOR, SAME, or WITH. To search by exact criteria, use the "Result Must Contain" search field. 

You can pre-select the format you'd like to view the results in. The basic display shows the serial number, the trademark name, its status, and whether the registration is live or dead. A live status means there might be a "likelihood of confusion" (more on this in the next section), while dead registrations might still be in use by the owner.

Advanced users can see more information once they find the record, such as:

  • Basic index
  • Current status
  • Owner name
  • Full mark
  • Filing date

A full record includes:

  • The link to the status of the trademark on the Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval system;
  • The application's ASSIGN status; 
  • Links to documents in the Trademark Document Retrieval system;
  • The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board status and files;
  • Trademark image; 
  • And other data. 

It does not include international or state common law trademarks. The Trademark Document Status Retrieval (TDSR) button provides all the related files for the individual searching the database. The status check will tell the user whether the trademark is in force or if it is close to being accepted as registered. It will also show the original application and specimens submitted by the applicant.

Why Is TESS Search Important?

Applying for a trademark is a long and expensive process. A trademark costs at least $225 to register. Legal costs and time spent can add to the investment. Therefore, it is important to use a reliable and regularly updated search engine such as TESS before starting an application. While some knockoff trademark searches claim to be more user-friendly and correct, TESS is still the No. 1 resource trademark attorneys and professionals use before submitting applications. 

Avoiding trademark and copyright infringement is another important reason to use TESS. If there is a "likelihood of confusion," the application will be rejected, resulting in wasted time and money. Search the database to avoid infringing on other trademark registrations or getting stuck in a legal battle. 

If an applicant does not complete TESS clearance, his or her registration request will be declined. This results in lost application fees, which are $325 per class of goods or services, as well as legal fees and other costs related to designing the mark. A trademark search only takes 15-20 minutes but can save time, resources, and money. 

How Can I Search TESS?

If you want to register your trademark, first search the TESS database to find out if there is a pending or approved application for the same mark, following these steps:

  1. If you're a new user, do a Basic Word Mark Search for an exact match. If you find a matching record, you can view the application's status, date of submission, approval, rejection, etc. You can also see what goods or services the applicant offers to find out if the trademark is related to your industry. 
  2. If you don't find a record, you can dig deeper by doing an advanced search or you can hire a trademark attorney to research the status of similar trademark applications. This will help determine how likely your application is to be accepted. 
  3. If there is a record, but no live trademark on the exact term, use the "Check Status" and OG search options to find out more about the applicants and the application's status. 

To learn how the TESS system works and what type of information is available, do a search for a well-known trademark. For example, search for Apple Watch and browse the resulting list of useful information: the filing date, owner, live or dead trademark status, and the associated goods or services.

The user can also view the Attorney of Record (AT), Coordinated Class (CC) for international marks, Filing Date (FD), Registration Date (RD), Serial Number (SN), and Owner Name (ON) fields.

You might want to hire a professional trademark research attorney to complete the full TESS search to make sure you're following all legal rules and missing no details during the application process. 

If you need help with your TESS Search, you can post your question or concern 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.