Trademark Searching and Clearance

Many businesses don’t realize that the trademark or brand name they had their heart set on may be registered or used by another party in their state, country or potential market.

Trademark CLEARANCE EVALUATIONS answer questions like:

  • Can I use this trademark or brand name?
  • Is this trademark available in my country?
  • Are there businesses in my industry that have already registered my desired trademark?
  • Does this trademark violate consumer protection laws or other regulations?

Why your business should seek a trademark clearance evaluation

Most companies seek a trademark clearance evaluation as a jumping off point in the registration process. Evaluating a name ahead of time allows businesses to avoid brand names that are claimed by someone else in your state or country. Evaluations also warn business of other pitfalls such as whether there is a potential violation of a consumer protection law.  Attempting to register or use a name without evaluating it first can waste valuable time and money.

What’s the difference between registering with the state vs. Federal trademark protection?

When a company forms an LLC, they will also submit a “DBA” (Doing Business As) for the business. This registers the business name with the state but not the country. The DBA prevents other parties from registering a similar brand in your state. However, this provides zero protection in any of the other states.  Federal trademark registration protects a business’s brand name in the entire U.S.

What happens if a company uses a mark that is already registered?

Using a brand name that is already registered can cause confusion in the marketplace between your business and another company. The company that registered the trademark may challenge your use of the mark after you have used it.

If the other company succeeds in its challenge of your trademark then you may have to:

  • Develop a new brand from scratch
  • Halt all production and potentially remove any infringing products from stores

Why you can’t use a search engine to see if someone else is using your desired brand name

Search engines, like Bing, Yahoo, or Google are sometimes helpful for finding trademarks prominently used in the marketplace. Search engines, however, do not provide a complete picture. For instance, another company may be in the early stages of seeking trademark protection for a similar mark that doesn’t draw a “hit” in a google search.  Contacting your attorney for a trademark clearance evaluation is the best way to avoid these risks.

This blog post is designed for companies or individuals looking to understand the process of trademark searches. For details on SpencePC’s related services click here to check out our practice areas. To contact our intellectual property attorneys or to learn more about their background in your field, click here.