+ WHAT IS A PROPER TRADEMARK SEARCH?
In order to determine potential conflicts it is simply not enough to search Google and/or the trademark search system on the USPTO website (TESS) for the trademark you want to register.
It is imperative that your trademark not be substantially similar to another trademark as this might cause confusion among consumers about the source of goods or services.
A comprehensive trademark clearance search should include an analysis of phoneticial similiaries, spelling and plural variations, and a complete design mark search for logos.
+ WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A TRADEMARK SEARCH?
One of the most common reasons why someone is sued for trademark infringement is not just because they are using the same brand, slogan or logo, it is because the two trademarks are substantially similar.
A strategic and thorough search can help prevent you from wasting time and money trying to register a mark that you may not be able to register. It can also uncover potential legal and business issues that may arise even if a trademark registration is granted.
+ WHY SHOULD I PERFORM A TRADEMARK SEARCH?
You should absolutely perform a basic trademark search yourself on a search engine like Google and on the USPTO website.**
This will provide you with instant feedback as to whether or not someone else is using the exact trademark you are seeking register.
However, this is not a substitute for seeking the legal advice of a knowledge trademark attorney who will perform a thorough search.
This search should also include a legal opinion that addresses other trademarks that are "substantially similar", intentionally misspelled, or are not common words in the English vernacular.
**You can find the link for the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) in the Resources link of this site.
+ WHAT IF A SEARCH REVEALS THAT SOMEONE IS USING THE TRADEMARK THAT I WANT TO REGISTER OR AM ALREADY USING?
Even if someone else is using the trademark that you want to register, you may still be able to register that mark.
Trademarks can and do coexist. You should consult with a competent trademark attorney to determine any potential issues your unique situation may present.
+ DO I NEED TO HAVE A TRADEMARK ATTORNEY PERFORM A SEARCH FOR ME?
This is a question that only you can answer. However, before you answer it, ask yourself this; do you know exactly what to search for, where to search, and what those search results mean?
Even if you can confidently say yes to all of these questions, only a competent trademark attorney should provide you with a legal opinion.
In the end, the only opinion that matters is the legal opinion of the examining attorney at the USPTO who will evaluate your trademark application.
A competent trademark attorney can advise you of the legal standard that will be used to evaluate your application.
+ WHAT ABOUT LEGALZOOM, LEGAL DIY SERVICES, OR OTHER SIMILAR OPTIONS?
You get what you pay for. LegalZoom advertises on their trademark search page that many people finish their search in under 15 minutes.
In addition, not all of their search options include pending trademark registration applications or common law trademarks, and some exclude certain states.
For $199 you get access to information that you could have gotten via public databases and basic search engines for free.
You get all of this with no legal opinion to back it up. What is that worth?
The examining attorney at the US trademark office treats conducting a search for the trademark you want to register very seriously. You need a knowledgeable Trademark Attorney who will do the same.