A trademark search report is a comprehensive report that includes results related to a trademark search. It's useful for individuals or companies that want to register a trademark and need to know everything about availability, similar marks, and other information before they submit an application. These reports are usually compiled by companies in the professional search field and may be ordered by intellectual property attorneys. 

Begin With a Simple Online Search

You can start by conducting a fairly reliable trademark search yourself. Review services or products that are offered in your chosen industry. You can usually do this search online.

As an example: if you develop mobile apps, start searching different app stores. Next, search online retailers' software categories. This will give you an idea of whether or not your desired trademark name could be potentially confused with another product. 

Bloggers can begin a search at the Blogger site and other blog aggregators. If you run an e-commerce business, start with a simple Google search by entering the proposed trademark name, plus relevant services or goods. For example: “CleanSweep” and housecleaning services.

What If Someone Is Already Using a Similar Mark?

You might have to consider another mark if your search shows that the one you wish to use is already in use or substantially similar to one in use. It's frustrating to deal with this, but it's important that you choose another mark in this case. If you don't search, or you ignore the results of a search that show a mark exists that's the same or too similar to yours, you might face expensive legal consequences.

You may be liable for attorney's fees as well as monetary damages if you go ahead and publish and promote a product with a trademark already in use by a competitor. The competing entity can get a court order to prevent you from using the trademark.

A trademark's level of protection grows stronger the longer it's used. Ford, for example, can easily show it's consistently used the name for its car company since 1903, so it wouldn't be a smart idea for someone to start an automotive company with the same name.

Review the basics concerning trademarks to see if you can get trademark protection for a desired mark. A company claiming it holds a trademark for the name "Computers" for desktop computers is probably mistaken. A word that's merely descriptive can't be a trademark.

The more famous a trademark is, the higher the chances the trademark holder will care about it being used. Apple, for example, will probably aggressively protect its company name in the computer, digital, cellular, and electronic spaces.

Should You Hire a Professional to Conduct a Search?

If your initial search doesn't turn up any potential conflicts (marks that are similar to your own), you might want to employ a professional search firm. The firm will compile a detailed report of the following trademarks:

  • State
  • Common law
  • Federal
  • International

Hiring a professional firm is costly, and it may run into hundreds or a few thousand dollars, depending on how complicated the search is. You don't have to conduct a search before filing an application with the Trademark Office, but it's definitely recommended.

A lot of small businesses choose to forgo professional searches unless they're planning to enter into a distribution or licensing agreement where they promise not to infringe on a trademark or if they need peace of mind knowing that there aren't existing marks.

A properly done trademark search and clearance reduces the following risks for a company or client: 

  • They'll have to stop using the service or product name.
  • They'll have to pay legal fees and damages resulting from infringement claims.
  • They'll be forced to adopt a trademark that requires substantial investment to protect it, if it's even protectable.

A complete trademark search report done by an outside party may produce hundreds of pages of results.

It's up to you if you feel a search report is worth the investment. Companies with adequate resources may feel it's worth it. Even if you don't get a comprehensive report, it's important to do as complete a search as you can to avoid legal hassles related to trademark infringement.

If you need help with a trademark search report, 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.