Before filing for a trademark registration and offering goods or services to customers, it is essential to make sure that your product name or logo does not conflict with trademarks owned by others. The reason for this is simple. Anyone with a similar registered or unregistered trademark can oppose your registration or take legal action against you for unauthorized use. Consequently, you could face substantial losses.
In practice, finding a unique trademark can be quite challenging. It is not uncommon to have to abandon numerous great ideas in search of a safe enough option. Therefore, trademark applicants often accept a certain level of legal and commercial risk.
Where and how to search
Trademarks are registered in the territories where you require protection. So, the first step is to determine the countries in which you plan to offer your product, as these will be the regions where you need to search for prior rights. The next step is the actual search.
Registered trademarks. One of the best free resources for searching registered trademarks is the TMView database. Here, you can find information about trademarks registered in the United States, the European Union, and many other countries. You can use words or images for your search. It is important to accurately select the relevant territories and the goods or services associated with your trademark.
Online search. Type in your trademark name or upload the product logo to Google and Bing search engines. The search may reveal websites that use identical or similar unregistered trademarks.
Domain names. Trademarks may also be included in the domain names, so it is worth checking if similar or identical domain names are registered. If such registrations are found, visit the respective websites to see if they are active. You can use Marcaria for domain name searches.
Social networks and apps. It is advisable to conduct searches on major social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, X, Instagram, and YouTube. Also, check App Store and Google Play for mobile apps with similar names.
Analyzing the results
The goal of a trademark search is to identify trademarks owned by others that are similar enough to potentially cause confusion with the trademark you have chosen. From a legal perspective, the determination of whether trademarks are sufficiently similar is based on objective criteria, not subjective feelings.
In general, each case requires an assessment of the visual, phonetic, and conceptual similarity of the signs in question. This assessment should be made from the perspective of an average consumer of the relevant goods or services to determine whether there is a likelihood of confusion.
Seeking Expert Assistance
It is important to recognize that conducting a comprehensive and high-quality trademark search is a complex task. It requires experience and expertise. There are specialized companies, such as Clarivate, that can help you to simplify the process by gathering information from various sources. You should also consider consulting a professional trademark attorney who can opine on the search results and offer recommendations on risk mitigation.