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Should you conduct a trademark search before registration?

Before applying for trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it is in your best interests to do a thorough trademark search. This can help you to avoid potential problems down the road by identifying similar marks that are registered or pending registration.

Although the search process may seem time consuming, it can save you time and money down the road. Even if you feel that your brand or product name is unique, it doesn't hurt to do your due diligence and conduct the search.

The USPTO offers the ability to do trademark searching for free through the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This system is available 24/7 online and at any Patent and Trademark Resource Center nationwide.

A thorough trademark search through TESS can help you to locate:

  • Identical marks*
  • Similar marks
  • Generic or descriptive terms that are difficult to protect
  • Currently registered trademarks
  • Pending trademarks
  • Lapsed or cancelled trademarks

*Identical or similar trademarks can both be registered by the USPTO if they are for good or services that aren't related in any way.

In addition to searching the TESS database, you also should conduct an online search to look for marks that are not officially registered. The owners of these marks may have "common law" trademark rights based on its use in commerce for a certain geographic area.

Given the complexities of trademark searches, consider hiring an experienced intellectual property attorney. They can help you conduct a comprehensive search as well as assist in the trademark registration process.

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