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Using the New Trademark Search

In November 2023, the USPTO retired their old trademark search system and rolled out a new and improved cloud-based search tool, the Trademark Search.

Anyone familiar with searching for federal trademarks on the old Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) knows that the process could be long, difficult, and confusing. The USPTO’s updated system is a breeze to use compared to TESS.

After poking around the system ourselves, we have to agree with the USPTO’s assessment: the Trademark Search really does promise to be a user-friendly and helpful search system that should be in every small business’ toolkit.

Here’s what you need to know.

Navigating the Trademark Search

Are you a regular person with a regular understanding of government sites? The Trademark Search is now completely reasonable for you to navigate.

Navigating the old system, TESS, required you to conduct individual searches for word and design marks on a complex interface. The new system is streamlined. Trademark Search lets you browse the entirety of the USPTO’s database with just one search bar. Now, you can also choose to conduct either a basic search or an expert search, exploring different tools with each.

Basic Search

The basic search is a great place to start while conducting a trademark clearance search. The default search option is “Search by all.” This means the default searches by all the criteria available. You can narrow that down by clicking on “Search by all” and then choosing a specific search perimeter in the drop down menu.

You can search by individual features like:

  • Words used in the trademark
  • Specific goods/services that a mark is being used in connection with
  • The name or address of the trademark’s owners
  • The serial number of a specific trademark
  • The description of the mark

Expert Search

The Expert Search gives you a few more options for searching, specifically for design marks. You can search by design code—which you can find in the design search code manual—or by the design description. This is great if you’re trying to trademark a design that seems hard to track down. For example, you can type “Fish” in the search bar with “design description” toggled on, and you’ll be able to see all the USPTO-registered marks with fish.

Other Trademark Search Features

The new search modes aren’t the only fine-tuned features that the USPTO is rolling out with their new Trademark Search.

  • The Class Filter lets you sort results based off classes, or categories of marks like Class 1: Chemicals and Class 24: Fabrics. This feature is accessible on the left-hand tool bar on the search result page. Why is it useful? A huge part of whether or not your mark can be approved for federal registration is if it creates likelihood of confusion, meaning customers could reasonably get confused about who is selling the product/service they’re buying. The Class Filter lets you more easily determine whether potential confusion is present.
  • The Status Filter lets you search by live or dead trademarks and registered or pending trademarks. This is important for a variety of reasons, including seeing if a cease and desist letter sent to you is legitimate or not. For example, if you are using a common law trademark in Virginia and a company in Alaska demands you stop use, you can see if they have federal registration before deciding how to respond.

This new system promises to be easier to use for everyone, even those without a background in federal trademark law. But if you’re still nervous about embarking on your trademark journey alone, we can help. Northwest’s Trademark Service includes a thorough clearance search.

This entry was posted in Opinion.