What is a trademark or service mark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. [For more information see: Trademark from Cornell University Law School.]
A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms "trademark" and "mark" refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Normally a mark for goods appears on the product or its packaging, while a service mark appears in advertising for the services.
A trademark is different from a patent or copyright. A patent protects an invention. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work.
Federal trademarks, issued by the USPTO, are valid in all 50 states. In addition, each state issues its own trademarks.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides extensive trademark information: Trademark Basics
Important Databases - United States Patent and Trademark Office
USPTO Design Search Code Manual - if your mark includes a design element (i.e. logo), you will need to search it by using a design code
Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) - This search engine allows you to search the USPTO's database of registered trademarks and prior pending applications to find marks that may prevent registration due to a likelihood of confusion refusal. Includes records back to 1984.
TEAS - the Trademark Electronic Application System - for online filing. Gives you the chance to see how others have entered information.
Conducting a Trademark Search - advice from staff at the USPTO
State Trademark Information
State Trademark Information - find information on trademarks specific to all 50 states and D.C.
For Historical Investigation
Business names and product names have much in common, however when it comes to trademarks there are some differences. First and most importantly, product names can always be trademarked if the name does not infringe another name.
For more information on how similar a name can be: Likelihood of Confusion.
Business names can be trademarked if the business provides a service, such as marketing, legal, accounting, etc. Business names, such as Ford Motor Company, Apple Computer, Advanced Micro Devices may be trademarked, but only if there are goods or services with that name. For more information see, "The Difference Between a Trade name and a Trademark - And Why You Can't Overlook Either."
The following business directories are a good place to check for names that are already in use, thereby avoiding infringement.
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