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What is a Brand Registration Check? (And Why Trademark Searches Are Important)

A lot goes into building a business. From finding the right product to manufacturing and beyond, starting and maintaining a successful business is no easy task. Once you have mapped out what kind of business you want to run and how to move forward, you will want to establish a brand and do a brand registration check to avoid violating another company’s trademark rights.

Your brand, represented by words, logos, designs, pictures, and other visual representations that separate your product or service from others is called a trademark. Trademarking is a way to register your brand and benefit from legal protections.

If you find yourself wondering how to conduct a brand registration check to make sure you aren’t infringing on another company’s trademark rights, you can search registered trademarks online.

Creating a Brand

Creating a brand is essential to separating yourself from other businesses. The success of your business depends on your ability to gain recognition from your consumer base. One of the easiest ways to become recognizable in a market with many similar products and services is by using a symbol, word, or logo.

Your brand should be aesthetically pleasing and relevant to your intended consumer. If you appeal to the wrong base or fail to positively differentiate yourself from your competition, your business will suffer.

Before moving forward with brand registration, check to make sure you are happy with your trademark. Once you register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you will lose a certain amount of flexibility to change and evolve your brand.

Protecting Your Brand

Once you have established your brand, take steps to protect it. Using a trademark comes with legal protections whether or not you register it with the USPTO. Registering your trademark will give you additional protections as you expand your business.

What Is a Trademark?

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A trademark is a sign, logo, design, image, word, etc. that establishes the origin of your good or service. It also sets your product or service apart from others. The ™, ℠, and ® symbols show that a sign, logo, design, image, word, etc. has been trademarked by a company.

When you are figuring out what type of trademark to use for branding registration, check to make sure the protections will cover the type of business you have.

Common Law Trademark

A common law trademark offers many of the same protections as a registered trademark. If you plan to run a small business on a local level and don’t plan on expanding into e-commerce, common law trademark protections might be enough. You should also keep in mind that local businesses that don’t do business across state lines don’t qualify for federal trademark registration.

Common law trademarks that predate registered marks have priority. Registering a mark that someone has common law protections over might violate their rights. If you are concerned about violating a trademark that has priority, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney.

Registered Trademark

Registered trademarks are federally regulated.  In order to register a trademark, you need to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering trademarks with the USPTO has many benefits and protections.

Benefits of Registering a Trademark

Running a business means constantly expanding and growing. As your business changes, so will your needs. At first, a common law trademark might offer you enough protection from infringement and allow you the flexibility to experiment with your brand. As you move into bigger markets or begin to use e-commerce, consider registering your trademark. And remember, before you register, be sure to do a brand registration check by performing a thorough trademark search.

A registered trademark allows you to file for damages against someone infringing on your trademark rights in federal court. Also, your protections with a registered mark extend further than a common law trademark geographically. You will have protections from businesses and other parties outside of your original jurisdiction.

How to Register a Trademark

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Now that you know the benefits of trademark registration, how do you actually go about the process? You can register online with the USPTO.

Online Registration

When you go online to the USPTO’s website, look under the “Trademark” tab to find the appropriate forms for your application. You will be filing using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

There are three different kinds of applications: TEAS Plus, TEAS Reduced Fee, and TEAS Regular form. The type of application you choose to submit will have different requirements and fees.

The TEAS Plus and Reduced Fee applications will save you money, but your product and service has to fit into an identification the USPTO already recognizes. The TEAS Regular form better suits the needs of companies that need a custom good or service identification.

Filing an application with the USPTO is a complicated process. While the existence of an online form may cause some business owners to cut corners, some of the options you choose have a legal impact on your brand. To reduce the risk of refusal, or other unintended consequences, consider contacting an attorney to help you file.

A Brand Registration Check: Searching the Trademark Database

Before you register a trademark, use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to do a brand registration check and see if someone else is already using a similar mark for a similar good or service.

The USPTO does not offer opinions on whether or not your mark will infringe on the trademark rights of another party. An attorney can help you make sure you don’t put yourself in a position to run into legal trouble.

The USPTO also uses the TESS when reviewing your application to see if a similar mark, good, or service also exists.

How to Use the Trademark Electronic Search System

The TESS is an online database for searching registered trademarks. You can access it by going online to the USPTO and navigating to the “Trademarks” tab.

There are several search options for searches and keywords using the TESS. Follow the description under each category to figure out what kind of search you need to do.  For example, if you want to see the living and dead trademarks for Oreo, enter it into the Basic Word Match Search bar. Hit enter and you will see all of the active and inactive trademarks for Oreo.

Again, even though a trademark search is available online, don’t be deceived by the apparent simplicity of a search. Performing a comprehensive trademark search, and having the results of the search reviewed by an attorney, can help you avoid problems before you drain money into a brand identity you can’t use.

Trademark Infringement

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The purpose of trademarks is to offer users legal protections. Trademark infringement is the violation of the legal rights and protections offered by both common law and registered marks. Generally, the courts determine trademark infringement using the standards of likelihood of confusion.

Trademark infringement has a long history of legal battles. Victims of trademark infringement may be entitled to damages from the other party.

How to Avoid Trademark Infringement

Doing a brand registration check, such as a comprehensive trademark search, is the best way to avoid trademark infringement. Knowing about trademark rights and the potential consequences of trademark infringement will protect you before and after you register your mark.

In addition to doing your research, reaching out to an attorney to help you with your filing and trademark needs will help you avoid infringement.

Dead Trademarks

If a trademark becomes inactive, it is dead or abandoned. A dead trademark loses its official status with the USPTO, but may still have common law protections. It is possible to register for a dead trademark, but be careful not to infringe on the common law rights of another party.

Sometimes businesses choose to abandon trademarks, but there are other factors that lead to dead trademarks. If your registration lapses or you fail to reply to a request from the USPTO, your trademark might die.

Conclusion

When it comes to brand registration, check your research before moving forward. There are a lot of benefits to registering your brand, known technically as a registered trademark.

The USPTO offers tons of tools and resources to help you move forward with registering your mark and growing your brand. If you are ever confused or unsure of the next step to take, don’t hesitate to consult a trademark attorney.

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