This week marks the beginning of the new show format for the Podcast. Our first interview is with Michael Bell of The Modern Brand Company. It should be live before you receive this email or shortly thereafter ;). I am excited about this new chapter in the show and for you in the Legal to English community. I encourage you to give it a listen. Michael talks a lot about the process of choosing your business name and why you may want certain names.
Today, let’s dig a little bit deeper into one of the elements of the process we discussed in the podcast. That is, the search on the Federal Database. So, once you have selected a name for your business that you think you like, you need to make sure it is available. As we discussed on the show, you need to run an internet search to make sure no one else is using the name you plan to use. After that, you need to check your state’s trademark database. If your name checks out in each of those places, don’t forget to check the Federal Trademark Database.
Good news, you don’t have to call a lawyer yet, I am here to help you run the search.
Go to uspto.gov.
Go to the “Trademark” tab in the top navigation bar. Click on “Trademark Search” (If you accidentally clicked on “Trademark” it’s okay, the “Trademark Search” link is now in the left hand navigation bar).
As we are just talking about business names today, you want to click on “Basic Search”. (Note: you cannot search logos in this search)
Now, you are in the search function. Though it is not the best search engine in the world, you can leave all of the default settings on and get the information you need. At this point, you want to run a search for “Live and Dead”. The reason is, even though a trademark may be “Dead” on the Federal Database, that does not mean it is no longer in use by another business. So, you want to know every instance that is out there in the early stages of your research. If you find the only marks similar to the one you want are “Dead”, you can dig into why they are dead and see if that company stopped using the trademark or simply forgot to maintain the registration.
This is important because, if they forgot to renew their registration, your use of the mark may remind them. You may receive cease and desist letters and have to start completely over. You do not want to do this in these early stages. The fight is often not worth it this early. If someone is using the mark you want in an industry that is similar to yours, you would be better off going with another one of your options.
You want to run a search like this for every one of your business name ideas. You also want to run searches for words or phrases that are similar to what you want. The language used when it comes to trademark infringement is “the same or confusingly similar”. That means, you want to try variations on spelling and different types of phrasings in your initial search. Make sure you have covered all of your bases early on. Remember, you don’t have anything but time invested in this now.
Do your research up front, so you can focus on growing your business instead of arguing over who used the name first.
I will talk to you next week, unless you talk to me first 😉