A thorough trademark search ensures that a desired trademark does not infringe on another existing mark. An informal search can be performed independently and is particularly useful when screening suggestions for trademarks. Searches are generally conducted through computer subscriber databases such as Compu-Mark, Dialog, or IntelliGate, using a computer, modem, and printer.

At a cost of between $5 and $10 per search, an individual may uncover duplicate, conflicting trademarks. A search may also be conducted in a state patent and trademark depository library using Cassis, the free government on-line system. Finally, a search may be made in the library used by the PTO. This facility is located on the second floor of the South Tower Building, 2900 Crystal Drive, Arlington VA 22202. Note: while these libraries have CD-ROMs containing a database of both registered and pending trademarks in written descriptions, they do not contain the graphics of the actual design marks.

While the informal, independent search described above is a sound preliminary step, it is critical to ensure that the search process has been comprehensive. A successful challenge to the use of a trademark can bring heavy damages, legal costs, and loss of profits by the party found guilty of infringement. This problem could be compounded by the expense of removing the offending trademark from all advertising materials, labels and packaging, printed corporate stationery, checks, price lists, catalogues, and any other place in which the mark is displayed.

The wise alternative to an informal search is the use of professional trademark-search services, such as those listed below. These organizations serve a wide range of functions designed to determine the availability of a trademark or trade name for use. Such services also monitor the marketplace for infringement of trademark use, supervise the maintenance of an existing trademark, and advise a client regarding the possible acquisition of a specific mark. The value of such a service lies in the thoroughness with which trademark candidates are investigated from among common-law sources, pending applications, and actual registrations. Investigations can extend to the state, national, or international marketplace, and can be performed in the preliminary screening stage as well as during the critical pre-filing period. Using such a service in the preliminary design stages of trademark development can save dollars in a costly design budget.

Once a trademark is secured, these agencies can provide additional services such as monitoring the activity of competitors, including the application for new marks from within a specific industry.

More information on Trademark-Search Services may be obtained from:


Thomson & Thomson
500 Victory Road
North Quincy, MA 02171
(800) 692-8833 or (617) 479-1600
Trademark Research
300 Park Avenue S., 8th floor
New York, NY 10010
(800) 872-6275 or (212) 228-4084