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Research Guides


While the Library reference service staff is happy to provide assistance with your patent or trademark research, we cannot perform searches, evaluate searches, assist with your application or dispense legal advice.

The University of Washington and its employees are providing a service of an informational nature with no express or implied warranty for results and assume no obligation or liability for damage arising out of the use, or inability to use, the information provided.  Every effort is made to keep this information up to date. However, errors and omissions may occur.

For the most up-to-date information or legal advice, please contact a patent or trademark attorney.

Trademark Searching at the University of Washington Engineering Library


What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, symbol, design, or combination of letters or numbers or other device which identifies and distinguishes products and services in the marketplace. Protection is renewable indefinitely. Do not confuse trademarks with business names (trade names).
Starting Points:

What is a Trademark Search?
A trademark search is a search for all companies or persons using your mark or similar marks in the marketplace. A complete search includes not only Federally registered trademarks, but also state trademarks, trade names, corporation and business names, trade literature, company indexes, business and newspaper indexes. For additional information on the other types of searching see the sections at the end of this search guide.
Why Search for Similar Trademarks?

Can I do a Trademark Search on the Web?
Some trademark searching can be done using the USPTO Trademark Database:  US federally registered trademarks and pending registrations. Be sure to read and understand the scope notes, help screens and disclaimers before conducting your search.
Starting point: USPTO Search Our Trademark Database
The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) was retired on November 30, 2023 and replaced by a new Trademark Search.

Which steps of a complete Trademark search can I do on the Web or at the UW Engineering Library?
The UW Engineering Library provides computer access to search Federally Registered Trademarks and Federal Trademarks Pending via the USPTO Trademark Search System and other resources from the USPTO. All of these resources are freely available on the Web. We do not have any information about state marks or unregistered marks whose owners/users are not pursuing federal trademark protection, other than what can be found on the Web.

What capabilities does the USPTO Trademark Database have?

Word or Phrase Searching | Search by Classification

Word or Phrase Searching can be done using the USPTO Trademark Search. Using the Trademark Search database is just ONE step of a complete trademark search.

In Brief: You need to look for:

  • Identical marks across all trademark classes.
  • Confusingly similar marks in the trademark class in which you wish to register your mark.
  • Confusingly similar marks in coordinate or related trademark classes.

You must search all variant spellings you can think of to ensure that there are no marks which could have a likelihood of confusion with another registered mark.

Determining a Class for Trademarks:

  • There are 45 total International Classes for trademarks. 34 are for goods, 11 are for services.
    For a complete listing see "Goods and Services" or "Trademark Basics" on the USPTO website.
  • Be sure to read through the descriptions of the classification, noting what is included in particular and what is excluded in particular.
  • The Trademark ID Manual serves as an index to the classes. Use this manual to look up words that describe your good or service. The International Class numbers appear next to each term. Be sure to find all classes that your good or service fits into, as well as classes related to your subject area(s).  The Trademark ID Manual will help you to identify your goods and services for your application. The Manual includes "Quick Tips" and "Resources" for searching and guidance for users.
  • You may combine a keyword search with class numbers in the USPTO Trademark Search System.
  • Using coordinated classes in your federal trademark search: Coordinated classes are a tool that can help you find trademarks with goods and services that may be related to yours.

Search all variant spellings
You will want to search on all variant spellings of your mark. You must try all variant spellings because the USPTO Trademark Search System searches for terms exactly as they are typed. Please read the "HELP" screens provided in Trademark Search for more information and in order to use the database effectively.

  • Singular and plural forms of the word(s).
  • Phonetically equivalent consonants or vowels.
  • Making a compound word or dividing out one word into two.
  • Synonyms or homonyms.
  • Foreign language equivalents, if known.

Why do I have to search all variant spellings?
With trademarks you want to avoid the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. Variant spellings can make marks confusingly similar. Marks can be confusingly similar if they:

  • Sound alike
  • Look the same
  • Have the same meaning or commercial impression.

Logo or Design Searching

Logo or Design Searching can be done using the USPTO Trademark Database. Using Trademark Search is just ONE step of a complete trademark search.

In Brief: Searching for design/logos is a step by step process. You need to:


Determine a Design Search Code.
Use the Trademark Design Search Manual, also known as the Trademark Design Code Search Manual (TM-DCSM). This manual is the guide to classification for logos. Read all of the introduction and general guidelines to the design search manual for specific directions. There is an alphabetical index and a table of categories. You must think of all possible aspects of your logo to search and establish codes for each aspect. The logos depicted in the Manual are examples of the subject area only. They are not the only logos registered under that classification. For additional help with design search codes: Design Search Codes

Once you have established all relevant design search codes, use them in the USPTO Trademark Search system.

In Trademark Search, select Expert, and choose "Design Code" in the drop down menu to search for one or more design codes. Enter the 6 digit design code without any periods followed by [dc] (i.e. 123456[dc]). If you want to search using more than one design code, combine them with the logical operator "AND" in between them (i.e. 123456[dc] AND 789101[dc]). You can also search for a design code or combine design codes. Use the drop down menu to change the "Field" search box to "Design Code." Consult the help for more information.

Most logos will be viewable from the full record for the trademark. If the logo is not present you will need to look it up in the Trademarks Official Gazette (older volumes available in print at the UW Engineering Library.

Complete Federal Trademark Searching at the UW Engineering Library.
Issues of the Trademark Gazette (TMOG) are available online at the USPTO website (2014 to the present). Archived editions available back to 2001. The UW Engineering Library also has older TMOGs in print.

If you use the USPTO Web Trademark Database, TESS, be sure to check the "Update Information" on the main screen to determine the date of the most recent database load. You may need to consult the Trademark Gazette to determine if any relevant mark or logo has been applied for or registered since the date of the latest update. In the new Trademark Search system, check the "Announcements."

Check the Current Status of Registered Trademarks and Pending Trademark Applications

Check the Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) system for the status of any registered or pending trademarks. TSDR is ONLY available on the USPTO Website. Records retrieved using the Trademark Search database have links to the status information. This status information is not found in the "Official Gazette" or elsewhere on the USPTO website. TSDR can be used to check trademark status and view documents.

Unregistered Trademarks, Business or Trade Names, Company Information, International Marks

There are other sources to consider searching to ensure that no one is already using your potential mark. Just because the mark is not registered on the Federal level does not mean that it is safe to use. There may be common law rights to a mark. The following is a list of suggested resources. It is by no means comprehensive. For more information about other resources for clearance searching from the USPTO consult: "Comprehensive Clearance Search for Similar Trademarks."

Trademarks vs. Trade Names

Trade names are not the same as trademarks.

Some trade names are also trademarks (in the case of Coca-cola®). But many other companies register trademarks that are completely different from their trade name ( in the case of the Subaru® trademark registered to the company Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd.).


Trademarks are words, names symbols, designs, phrases, slogans, or a combination thereof that are used to identify and distinguish goods in the marketplace. A trademark is a synonym for brand name.

To register a trademark on the federal level you must be using it or have an intent to use it in interstate commerce. Trademarks can be registered on the Federal level and/or the State level.

Trademark law protects both trademarks (on goods) and service marks (on services).

Trade Names

All names that identify business entities are trade names. Trade name is a synonym for company name.

Each state has business license requirements which involve registering these names with the city, county, or state offices. Corporations must usually register with their Office of Secretary of State.

For information about trade names, business names, corporations and state trademarks in the State of Washington, please click on the State Trademarks tab.