The trademark search on the USPTO database is one of the most critical steps in filing for a trademark. If done correctly, it can reveal any previously registered marks that might conflict with your mark and give you a good idea if your mark will make it through the lengthy process of registration. If not done correctly, you could miss a mark that is already registered that conflicts with your mark. If this happens, you will waste the registration fee for filing for your trademark because your application will be denied by the USPTO.
There are two types of searches that can be done on the USPTO database. The first is a general keyword search that searches for marks that were registered as standard character marks. The second is a design search that will search for marks that were registered as design/stylized marks.
The general keyword search is straight forward and can be done in a few minutes. It is like searching on Google for specific words. The design search is a much more in depth process. Every element in a design has a specific number that the USPTO has assigned to it. You have to take the pieces of the design and find the correct numbers assigned to them and conduct a search using those numbers. If you do not know the process and the numbers it can take a long time to learn how to do these searched correctly. If you have a design mark you are trying to register I would recommend talking to an experienced trademark attorney to see how they can help you with a search of your mark.
Robert Valdillez is an attorney with Firebrand Legal Services in Raleigh, NC. He practices business law, intellectual property law and contract law.