Can You Do Trademark Checks Yourself?
Trademark checks are an essential part of running your business. They’re also one of the most common sources of legal confusion for entrepreneurs. Doing trademark checks yourself is more affordable than hiring an attorney.
If you've never checked for potential trademark violations before, we will show you how to do it without paying for legal representation. There is a popular belief that trademark checking is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.
Follow this guide to make sure you understand how trademark law works and what you need to do to protect your brand and keep your business operating smoothly.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design used to identify products or services of a particular company. Trademarks protect the company's brand by distinguishing it from other companies' brands.
The first step in protecting your brand legally is using trademarks to distinguish your product and service from competitors’. As long as you're not violating any laws or infringing on someone else's trademark rights, your trademarks are completely legal and protected by law.
However, when it comes down to actually doing a trademark check, many entrepreneurs are unaware of how much they need an attorney. You can do this yourself without an attorney because trademarks are like any other property right; they're just another type of right and you have all the same rights as anyone else to defend them in court if necessary.
What Does a Trademark Check Look Like?
A trademark check is an integral part of the process of protecting a business's brand and identity. The check typically begins with a comprehensive search of relevant databases to identify any potential conflicts with existing marks.
The search should include national, state, and common law databases, as well as specific industry or product category terms.
Once potential conflicts are identified, each mark is evaluated against the criteria set forth in the appropriate trademark law, including distinctiveness, likeliness of confusion, and genericity.
The trademark check may also involve a review of similar marks or those with similar elements, as well as any registered or pending applications.
Once the trademark check is complete, the business can make an educated decision about whether to move forward with a trademark application.
Legal Trademarks vs. Trademark Registrations
Legal trademarks are the rights that are created by individuals or businesses to protect the names, symbols, and slogans of their products or services. When a business or individual uses the term "trademark" to refer to their product or service, they are referring to their legal right to the name, symbol, or slogan.
However, while legal trademarks are created by simply using the product or service, trademark registration provides an additional layer of protection. Trademark registration is a formal process that involves submitting an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a specific mark. It is an official declaration that a business or individual owns the rights to a mark, which gives them exclusive rights to use it.
By registering a trademark, businesses and individuals can protect their products and services from being copied or misused by competitors.
Trademark Search vs. Trademark Check
Trademark search and trademark check are two important steps that should be taken when attempting to secure a trademark. A trademark search is an extensive process which involves researching existing trademarks. This search is done to ensure that a proposed mark does not conflict with another mark that is already registered.
A trademark check, on the other hand, is a much more basic form of investigation. It is limited to a review of available registration databases and does not involve research of unregistered uses. A trademark search is recommended to identify any potential conflicts before filing a trademark application.
By contrast, a trademark check can be used to ascertain the chances of obtaining a registration. Both processes are highly recommended when pursuing a trademark, as they help to protect the interests of a business.
Things to Look For in a Trademark Check
When you’re first starting out, it’s best to make sure your trademark is distinct and original.
First, check the trademark database to ensure your mark isn't already registered by someone else.
Next, look for alternate spellings of your name. If there are no other trademarks that sound similar to yours, then you're in good shape. But if someone has taken a shot at using your name before, then you'll need to think of a new name for your business (we'll help you do that when we cover naming a business).
You should also look for any other companies who might be infringing on your mark. This includes checking the internet and researching competitors. If they use similar wording or designs as yours but their brands are more popular than yours, then they may have been able to file earlier than you did and take away some of your market share.
To protect yourself from this happening again in the future, search for more variations of your brand's name and register those variations with the U.S Patent Office (if they are unique enough).
How to Do Trademark Checks Yourself
Trademark checks are an important process in a business's brand development. Doing a trademark check yourself is an efficient way to ensure that your proposed brand name is not already in use. Trademark checks also ensure that businesses are not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights.
Doing these checks yourself can be done in a few simple steps.
First, conduct a search in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database. This search should be narrowed down to your specific industry or sector. You can also search other countries’ trademark databases for international protection. Additionally, you may consider searching for similar company names and their websites. Finally, if you are still unsure, contact an intellectual property attorney to discuss your options.
By conducting these trademark checks yourself, you can ensure the unique representation of your business, and be confident that you are not infringing on someone else’s rights.
Some Trademark Law Basics You Need to Know
1.Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a mark that is confusingly similar to another’s protected mark.
2. There are several forms of trademark protection available including trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and collective marks.
3. Trademark protection exists for marks that are used in the course of commerce.
4. A trademark can be registered with the USPTO to provide additional protection.
5. Trademarks are granted nationwide protection.
6. An unregistered trademark is still protected, but the protection is limited.
7. The owner of a trademark can take legal action against infringers.
8. Trademarks can be abandoned
FAQs on Trademark Checks
Can you check trademarks online?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes! The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides a comprehensive online database of registered trademarks. This database, known as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), can be searched by keyword, owner, or registration number. TESS is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to research potential trademark infringement or to simply find out more about existing trademarks.
In addition to TESS, there are a number of private companies that offer online trademark search services. However, it is important to note that these services may not be comprehensive or up-to-date. As such, they should be used as complementary resources, rather than primary ones.
How do I know if a brand name is taken?
The best way to search for existing brand names is to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which is maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. TESS contains over seven million active trademarks, so it's a good place to start your search. You can also do a simple Google search, but keep in mind that this will not be as comprehensive as a search of TESS.
If you're still not sure whether a particular name is available, you can hire an attorney to conduct a more thorough search. Ultimately, taking the time to choose an available name will pay off in the long run by helping you avoid costly legal battles down the road.
Can I trademark something that already exists?
Yes, you can trademark something that already exists. In order to do so, you must be able to prove that you are using the mark in a way that is distinctive and different from the way it is being used by others. For example, you might be able to trademark a common phrase if you can show that you are using it in an entirely new and unique way.
Alternatively, you might be able to trademark a name or logo that is already in use if you can demonstrate that it has become closely associated with your brand. If you are unsure whether your proposed trademark meets these requirements, it is always best to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney who can advise you on the best course of action.
How long does a trademark last?
In the United States, a trademark can last indefinitely if it is properly maintained. However, there are a number of factors that can impact the length of time a trademark remains in force. The most important factor is how the trademark is used. If a trademark is not used for an extended period of time, it can be considered “abandoned” and may be subject to cancellation.
Additionally, a trademark can lose its protection if it becomes “generic,” meaning that it is used to describe the type of product or service rather than the specific brand. For example, “aspirin” was once a trademarked name but is now used generically to describe all acetylsalicylic acid-based pain relievers.
Finally, a trademark can be cancelled if it is found to be misleading or infringes on another party’s rights. Although there are a number of potentially ways a trademark can be lost, with proper care and maintenance, a trademark can last indefinitely.
How much does it cost to keep up a trademark?
Depending on the country in which a trademark is registered, the cost of renewal can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In the United States, for example, the cost is $325 per class of goods or services. This may seem like a lot, but it's important to remember that a trademark is an important asset that can help a business to distinguish itself from its competitors.
Additionally, the cost of renewing a trademark is typically much lower than the cost of enforcement if someone were to try to use it without permission. As such, renewing a trademark is generally considered to be a wise investment.
A trademark is a word, phrase, design, symbol, or any combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of a good or service from those of its competitors in the marketplace. In order to protect your brand from being copied by potential counterfeiters, trademark protection is crucial. But trademark protection doesn’t come without its cost: the process of protecting your brand through trademarks can involve significant costs if you involve a lawyer.
The above tips should help you get started in conducting trademark checks without a lawyer. But that is not to say you shouldn't involve the services of an attorney if it becomes necessary.