Before you start using a name or commissioning marketing materials and registering domain names, it is important to have a trademark search to make sure your use of the name will not infringe on someone else’s rights. Otherwise, you may have to rebrand, recall products, surrender your domain name, and even pay compensation to someone with earlier rights in the name.
If you have been using a name and decide to register it as a trademark the starting point is to search to find out what other registrations exist. Trademarks give a wide scope of protection, and a trademark search is a way to find out if your name might conflict with existing rights, and to manage the risks. It is one of the most complex aspects of the process.
There are many levels of searches, from those you can carry out yourself before you settle on a name, to professional trademark searches assessing similar names.
The registry will also carry out a search as part of the application process if you are registering your trademark, but you should not put too much reliance on that report. We often encounter businesses who carried out their own searches and filed their own application, but run into problems later even though the registry search report did not higlight any clear problems.
So, all of our trademark registration services include an initial search because:
- If you use the same name as an existing trademark, your trademark application could be opposed by the owner of existing rights.
- This could result in your application failing. There are no refunds if that were to happen, so making checks in advance is the way to reduce this risk.
- You could face legal action for trademark infringement.
- Even if your trademark application succeeds, your registration could face cancellation in future by the owner of earlier rights.
- A trademark search helps you to make sure that your brand is distinct enough to stop competitors using similar names and confusing customers.
A trademark search is an exercise in risk management. Points to bear in mind about trademark searching are:
- The more extensive a trademark search, the more time consuming and costly it becomes.
- You need to balance the cost of searches against the risk of problems such as a failed application.
- Unlike company or domain names where a slight adjustment of spelling may enable a desired name to be registered, a name you use as a trademark must not be at all similar to someone else’s mark.
- A logo search is useful if you are registering a logo although the text element of the logo will need a separate word search.
- A “common law” trademark search, for unregistered trademark rights, may be worthwhile if the consequences of infringement or a failed trademark application would be severe.
- If you sell online, or operate in other countries, then consider an international trademark search.
Even if you wanted to leave no stone unturned, there is never a way to completely eliminate the risk of someone else claiming rights over your name. This is partly because some trade mark owners claim greater rights over their name than others.
Get started now with a free trademark search