A trademark search and opinion is a thorough search of various trade-mark databases both state and federal, business directors, and other sources to determine if your trademark will not be mistaken by another as the source of your product or service.
Trademark searches are highly recommended before a company begins using a logo or slogan associated with their products and/or service. If a search is not performed and another company had previously obtained rights to the logo or slogan they may force your company to stop using the trademark or slogan and/or sue your company for causing damage to their brand by using their trademark. Therefore, your company may lose a substantial amount of money used for marketing your brand and be forced to pay damages. Furthermore, if the owner of trademark stops your company from selling products with the logo or slogan then your company may not be able to sell any of the products with the logo or slogan.
The scope of a trademark search is broad enough to include mentions of the mark in federal and relevant state databases, as well as marks that are publicly known. For example, for a company that is located in Austin, it would be necessary to search state databases for Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, New York, Delaware, as well as any other desired state databases and the federal database. There are databases that both the U.S. government and states maintain, that include pending applications for trademarks, previously issues trademarks, and expired trademarks. The reason for such a broad search is because trademarks are not required to be filed either with the state or federal governments, and one can obtain a common law trademark based on use of the trademark. Trademark searches that do not include a review of trademarks with common law rights will not fully uncover marks with prior rights. However, one should understand that searches do not take the “no stone left unturned” approach, because it would be nearly impossible to review each and every database that may contain different marks and a fully comprehensive search would not be economical.
After a search is completed, a trademark attorney may give a legal opinion of whether the trademark is available or suggest opinions of how to modify the mark so it does confuse others about the origin of the products associated with their trademark. To determine if a trademark is available for use, the trademark attorney will compare the results of the search with the company’s desired trademark and determine if it is likely if others would be confused of the origin of the mark. Hiring an attorney to complete a search and opinion will ensure that the search is comprehensive, and also allows the attorney to provide legally based opinions on how to modify a company’s logo or slogan.
This search and opinion may be very valuable for a company deciding what their logo and/or slogan should be before spending marketing dollars for their product. Even if a company has been using a logo or slogan, the search and opinion will be helpful to determine if your company should change its logo and/or slogan before company expands. The search may also uncover other companies using a similar logo or slogan that may be confusing your customers.