I need to conduct a trademark search. What are the best resources to use to make sure I don't choose a name for my record label that is already in use?
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If you are starting a business, you need to determine whether another business is already using a trademark that is identical or similar to the one you want to use. It is how you ensure that you do not violate someone else's trademark rights and become the defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit.
Consequences of Not Conducting a Trademark Search
If you use a trademark with enough similarities to one already in use that it could cause consumers to be confused, you may be sued. If the owner sues you, the most lenient penalty will be an injunction to stop using the trademark. If you have used the trademark for an extended period of time, long enough that the other business could characterize your activities as damaging, you may have to change your entire advertising scheme or be liable for damages from a lawsuit.
How to Conduct a Trademark Search
You can do your own free search of trademarks registered federally at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) site: http://www.uspto.gov/main/search.html. The site has a brochure that explains how to conduct a search using the online database, and in person if you are in the Washington, DC area. This site also has alot of information on copyrights and other kinds of brand marks.
In addition to conducting a federal trademark search, there can be state law trademarks and common law trademarks. The USPTO site has a state by state listing of where to find this information. Many secretaries of state can provide this information. Additionally, there are online sites that can conduct these searches for a fee. Another good alternative would be to hire a lawyer specializing in Copyright and Trademark law.