The US trademark search enables the applicant to filter the existing trademarks based on a number of criteria like the trade name, live and dead trademarks, word and design marks etc. One such feature based on which the trademark search can be performed is through the trademark classes given by the NICE classification.
A trademark or brand name is the torchbearer of a business. A trademark can be anything ranging from phrases, symbols, insignia, designs, letters, words or a combination of words and symbols. Off late the shape of goods, the package of the goods, smell, sound, shape and colour of the respective goods and services are also brought under the ambit of trademarks. A unique and fanciful trademark has the potential to take the business to places. It is essential that a trademark does not resemble the existing trademarks in the market, as the consumers identify the products by means of the trademark. In order to make the process of trademark registration manageable, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has classified the products and services into specific categories or classes. If the business owner wishes to have the trademark registered in more than 1 class, all such classes are to be mentioned in the application and a separate fee is required to be paid for each of the classes that is mentioned.
The business owner has to come up with a unique trademark that does not resemble any other existing trademarks in order for it to be registered. To accomplish this, the first step to be pursued in registering a trademark is to run a trademark search in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) of the USPTO. The capability of the TESS is truly unfathomable and would help both the applicants and the examiners in identifying a unique and registrable trademark. The TESS database enables a basic word mark search and a combination of word and design search which is a much structured and a high-level search procedure. There is also a free form search option available that is more flexible and uncomplicated. The trademark search basically allows the applicant to search for existing trademarks based on various criteria, to check if the trademark that the user is intending to register is already existing or if that trademark would be deceptively similar to the existing trademarks.
Trademark Search by Class:
While conducting the trademark search, a search amongst the classes is highly beneficial. An applicant has to mandatorily choose the appropriate trademark classes to which the product or service seeking the registration belongs to and can claim protection only under the mentioned classes. The US trademark system follows the NICE system of classification with respect to the trademark classes. The classes pertain to various genres of goods and services and the system encompasses a total of 45 classes, 34 for goods and 11 classes for services. The trademark law in the US basically allows goods belonging to different classes to have the same or similar trademarks to be registered, and co-exist in the same market. The idea behind is that consumers may not get confused when the class of goods are divergent from each other. For instance, the trademark ‘Dove’ is registered both by a personal service and a chocolate brand. These two brands being totally different from each other, will not confuse the consumer. Thus, two very different genres of business, having the same trademark can still exist in the market.
Therefore, while performing a trademark search, it would be intelligible if the applicant performs a trademark class search in the USPTO’s TESS database. As, even if the desired trademark is already registered but under a different class, the applicant has a good chance of securing the same trademark for the business. The trademark search by class can be done by entering the appropriate class number in the search field. For instance, entering the number 024 would fetch all the trademarks registered in the textiles field.
Suppose, the applicant wants to trademark the letters “Voila Wines”. A search should be conducted for the trademark ‘Voila’ under the corresponding class for wines. But the classification system does not have a dedicated class for wines specifically. The next logical step the applicant can pursue, is to search for the trademark, in the class that is closely related to the product of interest. In this case, the product is wine. The applicant will therefore conduct a search in the nearest class, 033, which refers to alcoholic beverages to fetch the trademarks registered for various wine brands. The search could be more refined by including the trade name ‘Voila Wines’ along with the class number. It has to be kept in mind that the search results would fetch not only wines but also other alcoholic beverages.
The trademark search thus helps an applicant to wade away from possible infringement of the registered trademarks. The applicants should know how to play around the TESS database to check the effectiveness of the trademark chosen by them. Failing to do so might result in the trademark getting rejected or it might even result in the infringement of the existing trademarks. The violation of a registered trademark will be considered to be intentional by law and will attract severe penalties.