Trademark search, also known as “preliminary” searches, “knockout” searches, or “clearance” searches, allow you to determine the strength and availability of a mark (fun fact: trademark lawyers often say “mark” instead of trademark).
Although you are not required by the USPTO to complete a trademark search, failing to do so prior to registration can result in expensive, time consuming delays and, in the worst-case scenarios, a denial of your application. This is because many potential trademark registration problems, though easily avoided, are fatal to your application.
Depending on the resources available to you and your comfort for risk, you might perform a trademark search yourself or hire a professional to perform the trademark search for you. Just keep in mind that, statistically speaking, using an experienced professional like the Trademark Law Firm for your trademark search and registration has been shown to increase your registration chances by as much as 50%.
You can also vary your trademark search to be more or less comprehensive to accommodate your available resources and tolerance for risk. For example, most applicants find a simple USPTO search for similar marks within their industry to be sufficient while others require a detailed analysis across multiple industries and trademark databases (including state, USPTO, and/or international databases).
Most comprehensive trademark searches additionally provide an analysis detailing the existence of common law trademarks that could potentially create obstacles for your trademark, even if the mark itself is available for registration. Other approaches include restricting the scope of your trademark search to a detailed analysis of your known competitors and their trademark rights.
Trademark searches can also be used defensively to monitor whether a potential competitor has applied for a similar mark that could negatively impact your existing trademark or brand. Incorporating regular, defensive trademark searches will allow you to more efficiently police your mark and oppose competitor registrations.