Whether you’re starting a business and forming an LLC, changing the name of your existing business or developing a new product with a clever name, knowing how to check trademarks to protect your intellectual property rights can be crucial.
Getting a trademark for your business name, product or service name, or other unique intellectual property owned by your business, is a way of creating a “brand name” for your company and for what you sell. A trademark can help you differentiate your brand in the marketplace, charge premium prices and establish a competitive advantage.
By protecting your intellectual property with a trademark, you can defend against imitators and duplicators trying to cash in on your brand, and you will have certain legal rights and protections in case someone tries to steal your brand name.
Many people wonder if they have to hire a trademark search attorney in order to get a trademark. While it is often a good idea to consult an intellectual property attorney before getting your trademark, you can do certain steps of the process by yourself.
You have several options for how to search trademarks.
Consult the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website is the first place you should look when you’re ready to learn more about how to search trademarks. Their site has a great overview on trademark basics, with details on what you need to know about the trademark application and filing process, and what requirements are expected of people applying for trademarks.
For example, if you are a foreign-domiciled person, you are required to hire a U.S.-licensed attorney to represent you in the trademark application process. If you are a U.S.-domiciled trademark applicant, you are not required to use an attorney, but the application process is complicated and the USPTO strongly encourages applicants to get professional help from an attorney specializing in trademark law.
Your trademark also needs to meet a few requirements: it must be federally registrable, your trademarked goods and services must be properly identifiable, and you must choose a proper filing basis for your application. There are various deadlines that must be met, and various legal and technical terminology that must be understood. These are all good reasons why you might want to hire a trademark attorney to help guide you through the application process.
The USPTO has a trademark search tool, called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) where people can look for existing trademarks and pending applications. The TESS tool is open to the public and free to use, and it is a good first step in making sure your idea for a trademark has not already been taken.
The TESS tool is complicated and there are multiple options for how to search with it. Read the TESS tips carefully to make sure you are searching accurately and getting thorough results. You don’t want to mistakenly think your trademark name is available, only to later discover it’s already owned by a different company.
Even if you are not an attorney or have not yet hired one, the USPTO website and TESS search tool are a good place to begin your trademark search to help you understand the application process and know your options.
Hire an Intellectual Property Attorney
If you don’t have the time, expertise or energy to figure out the USPTO website by yourself, consider hiring an intellectual property lawyer to conduct your trademark search and give you professional advice on how get one. Search for attorneys in your local area or ask your professional network for referrals.
Hiring your own trademark search attorney can save you time and ideally help you get an accurate search result and a legally protected brand name. However, the cost could be a deterrent.
Lawyers tend to bill by the hour. If you end up spending a few hundred dollars per hour for a lawyer to do the initial trademark search you could have done yourself, is that really a smart investment of your resources? And what if your trademark attorney wants to set you up with an excessively complicated trademark filing, with extra costs and filing fees that you didn’t want or need?
Fortunately, there is a better option for how to search trademarks that offers the best of both worlds: professional guidance through the process and an affordable price.
Incfile Trademark Search and Registration
Incfile offers a trademark name search and registration service, including legal counsel from one of our experienced trademark attorney partners, starting at $199 plus a $275 fee.
When you sign up for Incfile’s trademark search and registration service, you’re getting professional legal advice and guidance to conduct a complete search of existing trademarks to ensure your choice is available and able to be registered and “owned” by your business.
You’ll receive professional help throughout the USPTO application process until your trademark name is approved and registered. And all at an affordable flat fee with no surprises.
You don’t have to go it alone when registering a trademark for your business. Incfile can provide the legal help needed so that you can save time, protect your intellectual property rights and get on with growing your business.