A review of United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) trademark database.
By Erik J. Heels
First published 1/25/1999; LegalResearcher.com; publisher: New York Law Publishing Company.
They say you get what you pay for. And the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) trademark database (http://www.uspto.gov/tmdb/) can now be searched, free of charge, online. So it’s free – does that mean it stinks? Let’s see.
The database contains the full bibliographic text of pending and registered trademarks. As of this review, the database was last updated 2.5 months ago. That means that trademark filing made in the last 2-4 months are not yet in the free database. The database is published in two-month cycles, and with production time, it can be up to four months out of date.
Also, the database includes only federally registered marks, not state, international, or common law marks. Information about inactive applications (which can be revived at a later date) are also not included. Image data is also not available, only text data.
The USPTO’s internal database, X-search, may be searched at its facility in Arlington, VA, for a fee. There are numerous corporations that provide this and other value-added services.
And for those who fear that their search may tip their hand to a mark they intend to register, the USPTO states clearly that it does not save search terms nor does it intend to do so. (As such, this information is not available via Freedom of Information Act requests. Nice try.)
So as long as you understand the various limitations of the database, you should be pleasantly surprised at what you can do. You can search the Word Mark, Pseudo Mark, and Translation fields of the U.S. Trademark database. You can also search by registration or serial number.
This clearly seems to be a case of getting more than you’ve paid for. The USPTO’s trademark database is free, but it’s very helpful. Since the information may be a couple of months out of date, you cannot be sure that your mark is available, but you may be able to tell if it is not. So if you’re trying to name a product, for example, it will be easier to rule a name out rather than in.