Benefits Of Doing A Trademark Search Before Starting Your Business
New business ventures can be both exciting and scary for entrepreneurs. Although it’s exciting to start a new business and see if it comes to fruition, the unknown future is scary because it may not hold the financial success you are hoping for.
But even scarier than that is the potential for legal ramifications after starting your business. From business law to intellectual property law, there is a complex conglomerate of laws that must be adhered to or risk serious litigation down the road.
One thing that could force a business into litigation is an accusation of trademark infringement. A complaint such as this can prove problematic for both start-ups and long-running companies alike. And without the right legal knowledge or representation on your side, you could find yourself facing serious consequences such as hefty fines when everything is all said and done.
Let’s start with the basics:
What is a trademark?
A trademark can be a word, slogan, design, symbol or combination of the four that is a way of distinguishing your business or product from another business or product. Although trademarks do not necessarily have to be registered in order to establish a business’ rights in the mark, filing for federal registration does have its perks, including legal protection in the event of trademark infringement.
Running a search
Before beginning your business venture, it’s often advised that you run a trademark search using the Trademark Electronic Search System. This system contains records of both active and inactive trademarks as well as current applications for registration. The purpose of the search is to find out the “likelihood of confusion” between your company or product and that of another business entity.
When a TESS search is run, a complete list is provided that shows trademarks that could be considered same or similar and/or could be considered related goods or services. If your intended trademark is too similar or identical to an existing trademark, an application for registration will likely be denied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
If the search does not turn up anything that would “block” your application, then your trademark might receive registration with the USPTO. Registration provides you with ownership of the trademark that can be used in legal actions against infringing parties. If you are accused of infringing on someone else’s trademark, your registration can be used as evidence to support your ownership of the mark.
The legality of it all
Although a number of businesses choose to register their trademarks with the federal government, there are a number that do not. These trademarks are not included in the TESS database and therefore will not appear on the completed search list. It’s possible that this could create its own set of legal problems down the road and may require a skilled attorney to help reach a resolution.