This brief note is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only.
Please be aware that regardless of any search you or a company does, it is the granting authority, which in the US is the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) that does the search that matters. So, keep in mind that while the trademark application may cost a couple hundred bucks which includes a search you can easily spend multiple thousands on trademark searches.
What type of search to perform?
If you are planning on using your mark world-wide then don’t spend your time searching as you’re going to need to pony up some big bucks to a specialized firm that can issue you a large report, not on why you can register your mark, but simply a compilation of marks in various countries that may cause “likelihood of confusion” in a consumer – which is the standard for rejecting a trademark application.
If you’re not up to spending big bucks then you should do at least a cursory search if needed. If you have been in your field for a while, it’s highly likely you’re familiar with trademarks used by others. If so, simply avoid them otherwise you may need to do a search yourself/someone else or hire an attorney to do it.
So, you’ve decided to do the search – good for you. Now there are different classes for trademarks – read our “Trademark International Classifications – Brief Note” to get an idea of what class(es) your mark is likely in.
With mark and class(es) in hand, let’s do like the USPTO, let’s Google® or DuckDuckGo® it as that’s the fastest and easiest way to see if your mark is already being used in your class. While this is not an exhaustive search it’s pretty good and the USPTO is going to do it, so you might as well do it.
Now if you’re not afraid of the USPTO, they provide search tools which you can use to see if a mark is registered and if it’s still alive or dead. Head over to here: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/search
I’d recommend the first option Basic Word Mark Search (New User). Then enter in Search Term your mark. If you enter, for example, DuckDuckGo as Search Term and then click Submit Query you will see something like this:
Clicking on the Serial Number brings up a wealth of information.
The more unique and distinctive a mark is the more likely it will be granted. Trying to be cute and apply for a mark for “Clean-X” will not fly and Kleenex® will object because they are confusingly similar in sound. Even if they are in different trademark classes it may be hard to get a trademark. Also, alternate spellings are frowned upon so don’t get kute. Your attorney should be able to answer any questions.