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Trademark Search and Registration
Columbus, Ohio

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Intellectual Property


Trademark Search and Registration

What is a trademark search?
A trademark search is a process of looking for other trademarks that are used on “related goods or services” that might be “confusingly similar” to your proposed mark. In other words, it’s not enough to say, “no one else has my exact same name or logo or slogan.” We have to find out whether anyone else has any similar variations and how those variations are being used and then compare those results to a wide body of case law analyzing these legal concepts of confusingly similar and related goods and services.

Learn more about these legal concepts.

How do I run a trademark search? 

  1. As a preliminary matter, identify which trademarks you will be searching, how you use those trademarks, and what international class your goods or services fall under. What brand names do you plan to use in your business? Are you planning to build brand awareness around a logo? Will your marketing campaign center around a catchy slogan? Then ask yourself: What products or services will be associated with your trademarks? Once you know that information, then you can determine which international class covers your particular products or services. 
  2. Brainstorm words that might be confusingly similar to your chosen trademark. Remember, the question isn’t whether your trademark is exactly the same as someone else’s but whether it’s “confusingly similar” to another trademark. Think about spelling variations, words that sound the same when spoken aloud, visual similarities, similar meanings or translations, or words or images that create the same general commercial impression.
  3. If your trademark includes a design or logo, then you’ll also need to look up the design search codes for each element included in the design. These codes are what allow you to conduct an electronic search for registered trademarks that also contain similar elements. 
  4. Make a list of related goods or services. Technically, two marks can be similar (even identical) as long as they are not being used in connection with related goods or services. If your trademark search only looks for whether your trademark is being used on a very narrow set of goods or services, there’s a good chance you might miss the use of the same or even similar trademark on goods or services that are considered related. And goods or services in one international class are often related to goods or services from another class (e.g., food products and restaurant services). 
  5. Now you’re ready to search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). You can start with the basic word search function to quickly determine whether another trademark has already been registered. But then you will need to move on to the structured search function (or even the free form option) to run searches for potentially similar trademarks across various international classes and using the same or similar design elements. 
  6. You should also conduct some common law searches to determine whether any unregistered trademarks exist whose owners may have common law rights because they were using the mark before you. To do so, you could also conduct your trademark searching on Google, online retailers, social media sites, domain registries, and the various secretaries of state. ​