Before you start to use a trademark, you need to conduct a search. If you do not, your business may infringe on someone else's trademark, which can result in an unnecessary and expensive lawsuit. The most complete method of searching a trademark that I am aware of is the commercial database operated by Thomson-Reuters. In fact, the Thomson-Reuters database is the only database I know that attempts to maintain a comprehensive list of common law trademarks and trademarks registered in certain U.S. territories. However, the Thomson-Reuters database is also expensive - usually $500 or more for a complete domestic trademark search of Federal, State, and Common Law trademarks, as well as additional time from an attorney to review the results of the search, which can easily bring the total cost into the $1000-$2000 range. Many of the clients that I work with balk at the cost of conducting this kind of search.

If you want to conduct your own trademark search, entirely free of cost, I have assembled a number of resources, domestic and international, that you can use to see if the term that you want to use is clear of trademark issues. All of these are searchable in English.

  • TESS: The United States Patent & Trademark Office maintains a list of all Federally registered domestic trademarks. This is the starting point for any domestic trademark search. Even if you intend to pay for a commercial search, a few minutes spent on TESS may locate a knockout mark, and save you some money. You can find it at http://tess2.uspto.gov
  • State Trademarks: In some cases, it does not make sense to register a mark federally. In those cases, a mark may be registered at the state level. The USPTO maintains a list of the state trademark offices, as well as the trademark offices for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Only some of these have databases that can be searched online. In addition, certain U.S. territoritories (e.g., Guam, the Marianas, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have trademark registries, but they cannot be searched online. I also note that none of these will provide common law trademarks. http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/process/State_Trademark_Links.jsp
  • Common Law Trademarks: The best way to find these short of conducting a search with Thomson-Reuters is Google and Bing.
  • WIPO: WIPO maintains a database of all trademarks registered under the Madrid System. http://www.wipo.int/romarin
  • Australia: You can search Australian marks that are in force now, as well as applications that have been filed since 1985. http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au
  • Canada: You can search Canadian marks using the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's search tool. http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/tmSrch.do?lang=eng
  • India: You can search word marks using this link: http://www.ipindia.nic.in/
  • Ireland: The Irish Patent Office maintains a free online search tool. http://www.patentsoffice.ie/eregister/Query/TMQuery.aspx
  • New Zealand: The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office maintains a database of registered marks. http://www.iponz.govt.nz
  • Phillipines: The Intellectual Property Office of the Phillipines maintains a database of registered marks. http://trademarks.ipophil.gov.ph/tmsearch/
  • United Kingdom: The UK Intellectual Property Office maintains a database of registered marks. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-os.htm