searching trademarks

How to find out if something is trademarked?

  • 08 April, 2024
  • Nyall Engfield

"How to find out if something is trademarked?" is a questions often asked by businesses looking to establish a brand identity without infringing on existing trademarks. The process, while detailed, can be navigated with the right approach and resources. This guide aims to demystify the steps on how to find out if something is trademarked? and provides a thorough understanding of the thought process involved.

Understanding Trademarks

Before diving into the search process, it's crucial to understand what a trademark is. Trademarks are symbols, names, phrases, sayings, logos, or combinations thereof that uniquely identify and represent a product or service, distinguishing it from others in the market. The ownership of a trademark grants the holder exclusive rights to use it in connection to their goods or services, preventing others from using a substantially similar mark in a way that could confuse consumers.

The Importance of Trademark Searches

The primary reason to conduct a trademark search is to ensure that the name, logo, or slogan you intend to use for your business or product is not already claimed by another entity within your industry. Using a trademark that's too similar to an existing one can lead to legal disputes, including infringement lawsuits, and can force a business to rebrand or pay significant damages.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Find Out If Something Is Trademarked

1. Start with a Basic Internet Search

The first step in determining if something is trademarked is to perform a simple search online. Use search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo to look for the name, logo, or slogan in question along with the industry or product category it's associated with. This can provide immediate insights into whether the trademark is already in use and the entities associated with it.

2. Utilize the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)

In the United States, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) maintains a comprehensive database of registered and pending trademarks. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) allows anyone to search this database for free. When using TESS, you can search for word marks, designs, or a combination of both. It's important to use various search strategies including the mark itself, similar sounding names, and variations in spelling to ensure a thorough search.

To determine the likelihood of confusion between trademarks, courts typically employ a multi-factor test that evaluates the similarities and differences between the marks in question and the respective goods or services. The specific factors considered may vary slightly across jurisdictions, but they generally include an examination of the similarity of the marks in terms of sight, sound, and meaning, as well as the relatedness of the goods or services, the strength of the marks, evidence of actual confusion, and the sophistication of the relevant consumers. In the US the 13-factor DuPont test is used.

When conducting a search to avoid a likelihood of confusion with another mark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it is advisable to follow these steps: First, utilize the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) on the USPTO website to search for identical or similar marks registered or pending registration for related goods or services. The search should encompass not only the exact mark but also phonetic equivalents and variations. Additionally, review the USPTO's Trademark Identification Manual to ensure that the description of goods and services accurately reflects the intended use. It is also prudent to search state trademark databases and common law sources, as unregistered marks may still have acquired rights through use in commerce.

3. Search State Trademark Databases

In addition to federal trademarks, trademarks can also be registered at the state level. If your business operates in a specific state or intends to, checking the state's trademark database can be crucial. Each state has its own database and process for searching trademarks, so visiting the state's Secretary of State website or contacting their office directly can provide guidance on how to conduct your search.

A state trademark registration provides the owner with legal rights within the boundaries of that particular state. These rights include the exclusive use of the registered mark in connection with the goods or services specified in the registration. The owner can prevent others from using confusingly similar marks in the same state for related goods or services. State registration serves as constructive notice of ownership and establishes legal presumptions regarding the validity of the mark, the owner's exclusive right to use the mark, and the date from which the owner's rights are recognized. However, state registrations do not confer nationwide protection, and conflicts may arise if the same or similar marks are used by different parties in different states. State registrations are generally easier and less expensive to obtain compared to federal registrations, but they offer a more limited scope of protection.

4. Explore International Trademark Databases

For businesses that operate globally or in specific foreign markets, searching international trademark databases is essential. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) offers the Global Brand Database, where you can search for trademarks across multiple national and international sources. Additionally, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) provides a database for EU trademarks.

5. Consider Hiring a Professional

While the aforementioned steps can be conducted independently, the complexity of trademark laws and the intricacies of conducting a thorough search often necessitate professional assistance. Trademark attorneys or specialized search firms have the expertise and resources to conduct comprehensive searches, including analyzing similar marks and assessing the risk of infringement. Their expertise can provide peace of mind and prevent future legal challenges. TrademarKraft offers a comprehensive search with registrability opinion.


Finding out if something is trademarked is a critical step in establishing a brand's identity and avoiding legal complications. By following a systematic approach—starting with a basic internet search, progressing to official databases like the USPTO's TESS, exploring state and international databases, and possibly engaging with professionals—the process becomes manageable. Understanding the importance of trademarks and how to navigate the search process empowers businesses and individuals to protect their brands and contribute to a distinct and competitive marketplace.

In summary, the question "how to find out if something is trademarked?" involves a multifaceted approach that, when carefully executed, ensures businesses can operate with confidence in their brand identity and legal standing.

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