Trademark FAQ: Why Is a Trademark Search Necessary?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office conducts a search for conflicting trademarks as part of the official examination of an application. Therefore, a pre-application search is always a good idea.

One of the most common reasons for refusing registration is that a “likelihood of confusion” exists between the mark and a previously registered mark or a pending application with an earlier filing date.

As such, the primary purpose of the search is to help determine whether a mark has already been registered or applied for at the USPTO that is (1) the same OR similar to your mark; and (2) used on related products or for related services.

When conducting a pre-application trademark search, the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is a great place to start. It contains the records of active and inactive trademark registrations and applications. As mentioned above, in addition to studying the marks for similarity, it is also important to examine the listed goods and/or services to determine possible relatedness as well.

How Can I Help?

Since trademarks can also be obtained via state registrations and common law, a successful TESS search does not guarantee that your trademark application will be approved. In many cases, it is advisable to consult with an experienced trademark attorney before filing a trademark application.


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