How To Do a Trademark Search in Easy-to-Follow Steps

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Knowing how to do a trademark search can help you protect your business against copyright theft.

As the first step to obtaining a trademark, every business will need to search before applying.

There are a few different ways you can complete a trademark phrase search using online resources.

How Do You Search To See if a Name Is Trademarked?

The most popular avenue for conducting a trademark search is to use the government’s TESS tool.

Also known as the Trademark Electronic Search System, this database covers information about registered trademarks.

Users will be able to look at entries similar to their trademark, either used on related services or products or live.

There are other options available to businesses interested in inquiring about trademarks, most of which you can find online.

However, the TESS USPTO search is known to be the most reputable source for valid results.

Using other tools, you might find that the results are outdated or inaccurate, leading to improperly filed claims.

Trademark Search Resources

To get a better idea of what search method is best for your business, let’s explore some of the options in detail.

1. TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System)

The Trademark Electronic Search System is a reputable online tool that helps businesses find registered trademarks.

It helps determine if a specific trademark has been applied for and if it’s approved or not.

When you enter the search criteria, the database will provide you with important information about the mark in question.

When you use TESS, there are two types of searches that you can complete:

  • Marks that have similarities/common elements
  • Specific marks with specified elements

The TESS trademark name search provides businesses with clearance before applying for trademarks.

When you search, there are two primary things you should expect:

  • Requiring Other Sources

Although the TESS USPTO search provides you with clearance, it doesn’t necessarily mean a trademark is safe to use.

We also recommend that you browse internet databases and state trademark databases for approval.

Some trademarks aren’t registered federally but can be classified as common use or be state-registered.

  • No Registration Guarantee

Just because you supply your application forms for a trademark doesn’t mean you’ll immediately receive approval.

In fact, it’s pretty often that mark applications are denied for an assortment of reasons.

You’ll need to ensure your application meets the requirements to be registered federally.

2. Internet Sources

Outside of running a nationwide trademark phrase search, it’s important to use the internet for more information.

Some trademarks might not be registered at a federal or state level, as they could be classified as common use.

Although the legality around these marks can be questionable, it’s best to avoid conflicts if possible.

Doing a quick internet search should give you a good idea of whether your concept is already used.

If a business can prove that a phrase, logo, or name has been used before your application, you might not have rights to it.

There are several online tools that you can use, whether that be search engines or free trademark search tools.

How Much Does a Trademark Search Cost?

Completing a trademark search by class or any other field is free through TESS.

However, as a first-time searcher, interpreting the results can be challenging.

In these instances, businesses can consider hiring a lawyer to assist with third-party searches.

When you hire a lawyer to complete a search, they not only get the federal database but online and state-registered databases, as well.

Typically, the service will include the search as well as a written analysis of the findings.

It can be a preferable method to searching on your own, especially with limited experience, to ensure accuracy.

Also, it will give you an extra layer of coverage in the event of future litigation.

Depending on the lawyer you choose, they can charge different rates for their services.

You’ll often find lawyer-based trademark searches that range between $1,000 and $2,000 for word or design mark searches.

One of the most considerable advantages of doing a trademark search by class through TESS is that it’s entirely free.

You can receive instant results by adding in the required information for an assortment of trademark searches.

Alternatively, there are free trademark search engines that you can complete online.

how to do a trademark search

Our recommendation is to use the TESS trademark name search for the most recent information about federally-registered trademarks.

Fortunately, the database is well-indexed and has excellent user-friendly features, making it quick and efficient.

Let’s review the steps needed to conduct a federal trademark search across several industries.

Step 1: Choose a Search Option

The first thing you’ll have to do before completing a search is to determine what type you want to run.

There are three central options for business owners to consider:

With a basic word mark search, you’ll be inquiring only about words in the trademark you’re interested in.

It can also pertain to the serial number, registration number, or the name of the mark’s owner.

You’ll find that it’s the most limited search option but can also provide the most precise results.

Word and Design Mark Search (Structured)

Also known as a structured trademark search, this option is ideal for beginners.

You’ll find user-friendly functions to allow you to access more advanced search functions.

This process can also help with building your search, making it a more thorough choice.

Users who choose a word and design mark search will be able to search in any field.

It’s also applicable for those who want to develop their own search criteria.

Word and Design Mark Search (Free-Form)

If you’re well-versed with searching for trademarks, we recommend the free-form option of the word and design mark search.

With this, you can efficiently search through various trademarks and get valuable information.

However, it requires that every user sets up their own search, which is challenging for first-time users.

For the sake of this guide, we’ll be using the basic word mark search as an example, as it’s the most common.

To begin your search, visit the USPTO website and access the basic word mark search function.

On this page, you’ll then be prompted with a wizard to walk you through the application process.

Choose the field that you want to search for from a drop-down list, which includes options such as:

Combined Word Mark
  • Searches English words used in all trademarks
  • Searches English translations of foreign characters and words
Serial or Registration Number
  • Searches by serial numbers of marks already applied for
  • Searches by registration numbers of registered marks
Owner Name and Address
  • Searches by the address and name of mark owners
  • Searches all of the above fields

2. Decide on a Search Term

With an idea of what you want to look for, it’s time to consider the term you wish the database to use.

The information you put into this field is what you want to index.

For example, if searching by owner name, you would enter “Smith,” and the results would include marks owned by Smiths.

3. Refine the Search Results

If you’re searching for something with more than one word, such as a phrase, this step is important.

You can refine your search results by choosing what you want the products to contain.

The three options include:

All terms AND
  • Every search term word needs to be within the field you choose
  • Words can be input/appear in any order
Any terms OR
  • A minimum of one word must appear in the field you choose
Exact Phrase
  • The exact phrase you entered must appear in the field you choose
  • Words must appear in the precise order they are entered

4. Deciding Between Singular and Plural, Live or Dead

The following two options to consider with a trademark search are whether the results are singular or plural and live or dead.

Singular and Plural

When refining your search criteria, you can choose between single, plural, or a combination of both.

This field will provide you with singular or plural forms of the mark you are inquiring about.

Live or Dead

Clearance searches require the user to decide whether they want to look for live or dead trademarks.

Any results that show up as “Live” are either involved with a pending application or have already been registered.

The final step to completing a TESS trademark search is to submit all of your desired criteria.

If you find that you’re not receiving the intended results, you can continually expand and filter your results.

One of our top recommendations is to consider changing the AND/OR search filters.

6. Interpreting the Results

Once the trademark search is complete, your results will include three primary details to consider:


The top result on the page is the mark that is most similar to what you were searching for.

You might find that it sounds similar, looks like, or carries the same meaning as your search term.

It is also common for this field to include results that have similar wording to your mark.

Relations of Goods and Services

Another crucial question to ask is whether the goods and services in the results are similar to yours.

Consider international and domestic goods and services, as they can both impact your application.

Live or Dead

The final factor to consider is whether the mark is live or dead.

If it is live, you cannot use it.

Learning how to do a trademark search is significantly easier than many business owners think.

With free federal resources, you can check the national database for live and dead marks.

We highly recommend this process to ensure your company uses a slogan or logo within its legal rights.

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