Trademark Search 101 – Part 4

In Part 1 of this blog series, we introduced the three search options available in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS): Basic Word Mark Search, Structured Word and/or Design Mark Search, and Free Form Word and/or Design Mark Search. Then, in Part 2 and Part 3 We explained how to use the Basic Search and the Structured Search, which are useful for beginners and experienced users who want to search for word marks, design marks or composite marks.

In this blog, we will focus on how to use the Free Form Search, which is the most flexible and powerful way to search for word marks, design marks or composite marks.

Free Form Search

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In Part 1 of this blog series, we introduced the three search options available in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS): Basic Word Mark Search, Structured Word and/or Design Mark Search, and Free Form Word and/or Design Mark Search. Then, in Part 2 and Part 3 We explained how to use the Basic Search and the Structured Search, which are useful for beginners and experienced users who want to search for word marks, design marks or composite marks.

In this blog, we will focus on how to use the Free Form Search, which is the most flexible and powerful way to search for word marks, design marks or composite marks. To use this option, you need to enter your query in a single search box using any combination of fields, criteria, operators, symbols and commands.

We will explain the search features, options and tips for using the Free Form Search, and we will also show you an example of how to conduct a free form search step by step.

How to Use the Free Form Search Option

To use the Free Form Search, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Visit TESS at https://tmsearch.uspto.gov and click the third option: Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form).

  2. Enter your query in the blank field under “Search Term.” You can use any combination of fields, criteria, operators, symbols and commands in your query.

  3. Choose “Yes” or “No” from the “Plurals” drop-down list. This tells TESS whether to include plural forms of your query terms or not.

  4. Click “Submit Query.” TESS will then display a list of records that match your query according to your chosen options. You can review individual records by clicking on them.

  5. Perform wild card searches using special characters to enhance your search. Wild cards are symbols that can replace one or more characters in your query to find variations of your trademark. Some wild cards available in TESS include:

  • * replaces zero or more characters at the beginning or end of a word. So, if you enter “(*ARVEL)[BI],” this will find any trademark that has a word ending with ARVEL, like “MARVEL,” “QUARVEL,” “SWARVEL,” “MARVEL STUDIOS,” etc.

  • $ can replace any number of internal characters. For example, if you enter “(MAR$EL)[BI],” this will find “MARKEL,” “MARVEL,” “MARCHEL,” etc.

  • ? replaces one character anywhere in a word. For example, if you search for “(MAR$EL)[BI],” it will still find “MARKEL” and “MARVEL,” but it won’t find “MARCHEL.”

 

Example of a Free Form Search

Let’s say you want to register a trademark for your new brand of cosmetics called “Lushy.” You want to do a free form word mark search to see if there are any existing trademarks that are similar to yours and used on related products or services.

To do a free form search, follow these steps:

  1. Visit TESS at https://tmsearch.uspto.gov and click on the Free Form search option.

  2. Enter “(MUSHY)[BI] AND (003) [IC] AND (LIVE)[LD]” in the blank field under “Search Term.” This is an example of a query that uses multiple fields, criteria, operators, symbols and commands. It means:

    • (MUSHY)[BI]: This part searches for the word “LUSHY” in the Basic Index (BI) field. The Basic Index field searches for the English words used in all marks and their translations.

    • AND: This operator combines the previous part with the next part. It returns records that contain both parts.

    • (003)[IC]: This part searches for international class 003 in all fields. International class 003 includes cosmetics, perfumery, soaps and other related products.

    • (LIVE) [LD]: This searches for “live” trademarks in the Live/Dead (LD) field. The Live/Dead field searches for whether a mark is live or dead in the USPTO database. A live mark is a mark that has an active federal trademark registration or application. A dead mark is a mark that has been abandoned, cancelled or expired.

  3. Choose “Yes” from the “Plurals” drop-down list. This will include plural forms of your query terms, such as “MUSHIES.”

  4. Click “Submit Query.” TESS will then display a list of records that match your query according to your chosen options. At the time of this writing, there are 0 records in total, which means that there are no existing trademarks that are using MUSHY or MUSHIES and used on class 003 goods. While this looks promising, it would be better to run additional searches, using wildcards to have a better idea.

  5. So, let’s perform wildcard searches using special characters to enhance the search. For example, you can replace the “Y” in the name with an “$” to see what trademarks use words that start with “MUSH.” Enter “(MUSH$)[BI] AND (003) [IC] AND (LIVE)[LD]” in the blank field under “Search Term” and click “Submit Query” again. This will return several records that contain any live mark in class 003 that starts with “MUSH,” including the mark “MUSHEE.” In this case, had you stopped your search with MUSHY for class 003 goods, you might have thought it was a good mark to file. However, by adding the wildcard search, we are able to see that MUSHEE is fully registered. This mark is likely similar enough to MUSHY to lead to a likelihood of confusion refusal from the USPTO.

By doing a free form search, you can get an idea of how many and what kind of trademarks are already registered or applied for that are similar to yours and used on related products or services. This can help you assess the likelihood of confusion between your trademark and existing trademarks, and decide whether to proceed with your trademark application or modify your trademark.

Conclusion

In this blog, we have explained how to use the Free Form Word and/or Design Mark Search option in TESS, which is the most flexible and powerful way to search for word marks, design marks or composite marks. We have also shown you an example of how to conduct a free form search step by step.

The Free Form option is useful for expert users who want to do a more customized and sophisticated search for word marks, design marks or composite marks. However, it still has some limitations. For example,

  • It requires you to have a high level of knowledge and skill in using TESS and its features. If you are not familiar with TESS, you may find it difficult or confusing to use this option.

  • It requires you to use the correct syntax and format for your query. If you make a mistake in your query, such as using the wrong field, criterion, operator, symbol or command, you may get an error message, no results, or even simply wrong results.

This concludes our blog series on Trademark Search 101. While we’ve shared a lot through this four-part series, there is still a lot that can be done through searching and even more advanced search techniques. We hope you have learned something useful and interesting about how to search for trademarks using TESS. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for reading!

And if you missed any of the previous Trademark Search 101 series, You could find them here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3