What is a trademark?
- Any Word, Name, Symbol, Sound, Color, Design (or any combination thereof) used to identify and distinguish goods or services and to indicate their source.
- A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
- Trademark registrations can be owned indefinitely. However, proper post-registration maintenance. Documents must be timely and accurately filed.
- Trademark Basics: Where to Start (PDF)
- Frequently Asked Questions About Trademarks
Conduct a trademark search to determine whether a conflict exists with registered federal marks or pending applied-for marks
If there is a registered U.S. trademark or prior-filed application for a mark that is not spelled exactly like your mark but is similar in sound, appearance, meaning or commercial impression, and used in connection with related goods and/or services, then the trademark will be refused registration. It is likely that consumers would be confused by similar trademarks for the same or related goods and/or services.
See the USPTO's page on the most frequently cited trademark registration refusals
The most common reason for refusal of a trademark registration is likelihood of confusion with other marks. Additionally, a trademark may also be refused if it lacks distinctiveness. In other words, it may be refused if the trademark is
- Merely descriptive for the goods/services
- A geographic term
- A surname
- Ornamental as applied to the goods
Useful links in Trademark Searching
- Acceptable Identification of Goods & Services Manual - Identify specific terms for your product or service. Also, use this manual to note the class number.
- International Schedule of Classes - Find additional classes related to your goods or service.
- Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) - Refer to chapter 1400 to learn more about the classification system.
- Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) Search trademarks
- Design Search Code Manual Does your trademark include a picture, symbol, scent, color, or another design element? Determine the correct design search code(s) for your mark's graphic design components. Then, use these design codes in a search on TESS to see if there are other marks with a similar design element for similar products/services as yours.
Trademark Application Process
- File an application electronically using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS)
- Trademark application tutorials online
- Current USPTO Fee schedule Fee information for patents and trademarks. Scroll toward the bottom for trademark processing fees.
- Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) Check on the status of your Trademark Application.
- Rights arise from actual use of the mark. If you are not yet using your mark in commerce, you will need to file an "Intent to Use" form with your application. See Trademark Forms
- Library staff can assist with general questions and provide assistance and instruction in the use of trademark resources. Staff is not permitted to perform searches, fill out forms, or give opinions or advice.
- To find a trademark attorney, consult the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Another source for trademark attorneys is Martindale-Hubbell's Find Trademarks Attorneys.
- The USPTO's Trademark Assistance Center (TAC), at (800) 786-9199, will answer general trademark questions but questions pertaining to an application under examination will still be directed to the appropriate examining attorney.
- Trademark Registration Toolkit
Trademark Protection Options Outside of the United States
- File a trademark internationally under the Madrid Protocol through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Also see the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) page on the Madrid system for the international registration of marks, which functions under two international treaties. For international marks currently in force and recorded under the Madrid System, search the Global Brand Database.
- Community Trademark (CTM) registrations File a trademark valid in the European Union countries.
- You can also file for separate trademark registrations with each country.
If you are not conducting and do not plan to conduct interstate commerce, you may consider applying for a state trademark through the California Secretary of State's office rather than a federal trademark.
Common Law Trademarks
Even if a trademark is not registered federally, the owner may have common law rights resulting from the use of it. The owners of unregistered trademarks may indicate their claim to common law rights to the trademark by using "TM" with it.
Read more about Common Law Trademarks from San Francisco Public Library.
Common law marks may be found in:
- Telephone, business and manufacturing directories
- Print and on-line catalogs
- Trade journals and magazines
- Web search engines and portals
- Newspapers, press releases, and new product announcements