Can you really carry out a search for trademarks without paying for it? Maybe, maybe not. There certainly are some sites on the Internet that offer some preliminary information which do not charge for the searches, but their terms and conditions may not be transparent.

What really is a trademark? It could be a word, name or symbol, especially one that is officially registered and protected by law, which a company or individual uses as identification on all the goods made or sold by them. It could also be a distinguishing characteristic or feature. When a trademark is registered, the owner gets legal protection to carry on business using that trademark exclusively. No other individual or organization can use the trademark or even anything resembling it without attracting penal action. With such significant advantages, it is best that one registers the brand one intends to trade under as a registered trademark. To do so, the first step is to conduct a search to find out if that particular trademark is available for registration.

A method that costs nothing is to use the Internet to search online. Trademarks already registered are listed on many sites. It is important that the trademark that you intend to use must be unique and which will not be already in use elsewhere.

- The official body that registers trademarks in the USA is the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO. Their website is available for free downloads from their PT depository library. You can also check the site for availability of identifiable goods. This site however is not all exclusive. Other important information such as trademarks registered in the various states, DBA records and other necessary important facts are not available. The site depends on manual entries for variations such as synonyms, placements, variations in spellings etc.

- Websites of State Secretary. Most states have detailed databases made available online. These sites however, do not include details of federal trademarks, listings of other states and common-law databases. If you are visiting a state's website, do ensure that what you are looking at is an updated version and whether it can conduct an intelligent search.


- Yellow Pages. You can access their nationwide database by just entering the name of your business. There is no need to enter all other details asked for. Like the other websites, you will have to enter details of variations failing which the website does not conduct an intelligent search.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the search that you have undertaken without incurring any cost, you can always hire a professional who specializes in this work. Before that however, why not make use of the free facilities available?

An application for registering a trademark can be filed with the USPTO. They will conduct their own search to ensure that no other similar or look alike trademark has been registered. It is not the job of the USPTO to serve the applicants. Their job is to protect existing trademarks. They will do this by ensuring that no new trademark infringes on existing registered ones.

Considerable preparatory work needs to be done prior to applying for registration of a trademark. Depository libraries can be visited and manual searches for existing trademarks can be carried out. The same can be done electronically using TESS. After the application has been made, its progress can be monitored using TARR.

Before any trademark is registered, the USPTO has to ensure that existing registered trademarks do not stand to get infringed by your new application. If there is the slightest chance of this happening, the application is likely to be rejected. To avoid such an outcome, it is best that you conduct your own free trademark searches before you submit your application for registration.