How to Do a Trademark Lookup for Your New Company Name

Protect your new business by ensuring the name isn't already taken

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So you've decided to form your own company and have a great name in mind. Before filing the proper paperwork and putting things in motion, however, you should first check to make sure that your desired business name hasn't already been trademarked by someone else. 

If you don't take this important step, chances are you'll end up being forced to change your business's name and all of your marketing materials down the road. Thankfully, information about trademarks that have been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are publicly available free of charge. 

Using TESS: Trademark Electronic Search System

The USPTO offers a search engine on its official government website, allowing you to query the agency's vast trademark database which contains names that have already been registered as well as those whose applications are currently pending.

It should be noted that not *all* valid trademarks within the United States are housed in this database, in particular those that are still protected but whose owners did not opt to register their marks with the USPTO. For a more comprehensive search that includes these legally-protected marks, the USPTO recommends that you consult a trademark attorney.

While the agency does not provide specifics on how you should perform your search, following the steps below will give you a general idea on whether or not your desired name is registered with the USPTO.

TESS also offers advanced search options, including those that let you query the database by specific design marks. These typically apply to product trademarks and not business names, but can come in handy if your desired name may also be synonymous with an existing product.

  1. Open your web browser and navigate to the following URL: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/

    

    TESS main page
  2. Select Basic Word Mark Search (New User).

  3. The basic search form will now appear. Ensure that the following options, each accompanied by a radio button, are selected: Plural and Singular, Live and Dead.

    TESS basic search
  4. Enter the desired name for your business in the Search Term field.

  5. Select the following option from the Field drop-down menu: ALL

  6. In the Results Must Contain field, we recommend selecting the Any Search Terms (OR) option for your initial search and then refining it by selecting All Search Terms (AND) if too many irrelevant results are returned the first time.

  7. Click on the Submit Query button.

    TESS search results
  8. Your search results will now be displayed.

Paid Trademark Searches

In addition to using USPTO's free lookup tool, many companies like LegalZoom as well as individual patent and trademark attorneys will perform a more in-depth search that often includes state-by-state databases along with the aformentioned federal repository. This may be worth the hit to your wallet, as it could avoid unexpected headaches in the future.

Searching For Available Domains

Although not a legal issue like potential trademark infringement, ensuring that a suitable website domain name is available for your desired business moniker is also a key factor in deciding upon a final name. 

Since you'll most likely want your website address to match your company name or at least be similar to it, finding out which domain names are available should also be part of the decision-making process. Most registrars offer domain name searches on their home page, but we recommend using GoDaddy's engine for its ease-of-use and reliable results. Simply go to their home page and enter your desired domain name in the edit field provided. 

Performing a Basic Web Search

While domain and trademark lookups are important steps in deciding upon a business name, you'll also want to perform a basic web search through Google (or Google Patent Search) or another reputable engine to see if the name you have in mind is being used in any other ways that could possibly cause a future conflict. 

Just because you did not find your desired business name in the USPTO database or elsewhere on the web does not mean that your mark can be registered. After filing an application, the USPTO will conduct a thorough search and review of their own and still has the right to refuse your registration request.