Why a Clearance Search is the First Step to Protecting Your Trademark

Not ready to register your trademarks? Start here

I talk with so many entrepreneurs and small business owners who aren't ready to file for trademark applications yet.

If you're reading this, you're probably in the same boat.

Maybe it's a budget issue, or you don't think your business needs it yet, or there's something else that's holding you back.

Guess what — that's totally okay!

(I mean, there are risks if you don't register your trademarks. But if you're not ready to take those steps yet, it's okay.)

An easy, crucial step to protecting your trademark

Just because you're not ready to REGISTER your trademark doesn't mean you can just sit on your hands on this stuff until you're ready.

There's actually a critical step you can take now.

And it's totally free.

Seriously, this step is so important. And so many clients wait to do this until we start working together . . . sometimes it's too late to fix by then.

The power of a search

What many business owners fail to understand is this  . . .

You might have already lost rights to your trademark.

As a trademark lawyer, I help businesses register their trademarks at the federal level. With a federally registered trademark, you have exclusive rights—nationwide—to your trademark and anything that's confusingly similar to it.

On the flip side, it's very possible that another business already owns a registered trademark that's the same as yours — or is confusingly similar to yours.

If that's the case, then you're in serious trouble. You have two basic options:

  1. Dispute the other business's trademark registration (which can cost a lot of time and money)
  2. Transition away from that trademark and rebrand (which can also cost a lot of time and money)

This is one of the reasons why registering your trademark is so important. It almost acts like insurance so that you don't find yourself in one of the situations above.

The goods news is there's an easy way to avoid this: run a trademark search.

How to run a simple search

I can't stress enough how important it is to run a trademark search. So many business owners wait months or years before they decide to protect their trademarks — and if they would have conducted a search right away they would have avoided significant problems down the road.

Now, it's critical to run a more comprehensive search before applying for a trademark registration. (Most trademark lawyers are able to do that for you.)

But you can also run a simple search to see if there are any obvious trademark registrations that are problematic for you.

Here's how to do it.

  • Click here to go to the trademark basic search database main page.
    • Click on the button that reads "Search our trademark database (TESS)"
    • Then click on "Basic Word Mark Search (New User)"
  • Type in your trademark (your business name, slogan, etc.) and then click on the "Submit Query" button
    • Pro tip: you can also change the "Field" dropdown to "ALL" and type in a description of what you sell for more fewer results
  • Review the listings on the results page

Now, reviewing the results and running a more comprehensive search are more complicated issues.

But the point is that if you're in clear danger of another business owning a trademark registration for the same name as yours, this search will point that out for you.

Your search has an expiration date

Running a clearance search using the steps above is an easy, free way to take some action on protecting your trademarks and safeguarding your brand.

But be very careful here. Remember: every search you run is just a snapshot in time. It's possible that someone could file for a trademark application the day after you run a search — and obviously the earlier search you ran would not catch that.

So if you're not ready to file for trademark registrations, then you should be running searches frequently to see if anyone has filed an application that will be problematic for you.

True story: My law firm once had a client sign up for a trademark package. We conducted a comprehensive search and could not find any concerning results. But the client was then unresponsive for a month. We eventually reconnected and got the application filed, but before we could do so another business applied for the same trademark.

You can see how this search work gives you another reason to register your trademarks as quickly as you are able.

Don't procrastinate on your trademark protections

PowerBrand is an online course that walks you through how to protect your trademarks on your own without hiring an attorney. I cover how to run a stronger search, how to submit your application, and more. Learn more here.

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