Importance of a Trademark Availability Search

Your company’s trademarks are some of the most important assets you have. You can trademark logos, symbols, phrases, and names so your business can build a memorable brand. Without a distinctive and unique trademark, consumers might not be able to identify your company’s products or services from those of your competitors. And for many entrepreneurs, your intellectual property may be the only asset you have when you are first getting your company up and running. 

Your brand is the foundation upon which you build your business. Wouldn’t you want to be sure that your brand identifiers—your trademarks—do not infringe on existing trademarks? Most entrepreneurs, and certainly most attorneys, would recommend that you take steps to ensure your trademarks can be legally used as early as possible in the start-up of your business. The first step in this process is to perform a trademark availability search. 

Knockout Search

The first place you should go in order to perform a trademark availability search is the TESS database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There, you can view trademarks and trademark applications that have been registered at the federal level. You also should search on your state’s trademark database. Searching for registered trademarks is often referred to as a “knockout search.” A knockout search allows you to have peace of mind that your trademarks do not infringe on registered trademarks, which offer the highest levels of protection for trademark holders. 

Common Law Search

A thorough and complete trademark availability search does not end with the knockout search, though. This is because holders of even unregistered trademarks have limited common law rights. So, even though your trademark might not infringe on registered trademarks, you might still run into trouble if you do not cast a wider net in your search. Your attorney will identify specific locations to explore in a common law search; this usually involves scouring the Internet for anything that might present a problem for your trademark. 

Why is Conducting a Trademark Search So Important?

Making sure your trademark doesn’t infringe on existing trademarks is, at its core, a smart business decision. You don’t want to sink thousands of dollars into developing your brand when, in the end, it’s all for naught because somebody already has a similar mark. And you definitely don’t want to be sued for trademark infringement. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Another benefit is that performing a trademark availability search allows you to survey the competitive landscape for your business. Seeing what has been accepted by the USPTO can be helpful in developing your own brand. Also, courts like to see that individuals or companies defending themselves against allegations of trademark infringement have conducted at least some due diligence by performing a trademark search. 

Conclusion

Starting, cultivating, and sustaining a successful business means taking care of many legal details that may seem small and unimportant until they become problems down the road. IGC can help with all of them, so please reach out if you need help with a trademark search or any other business & employment-related legal needs.