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Patents and Trademarks

Information about patents and trademarks

General information

What is a trademark or service mark and how do they differ from patents and copyrights?

A trademark is a brand name.  A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.  Although federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, it has several advantages, including notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark, legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration.

It is important to understand whether you should file for a trademark/service mark, a patent, and/or a copyright.  While all are types of intellectual property, each protects something very specific.  Please study how trademarks, patents, and copyrights differ to ensure you are making the proper filing decision at the outset of the filing process.

Basic Facts About Trademarks

Video recorded at UNC Charlotte -- Why You Should Protect Your Business Name

Trademark Searching

Searching for Trademarks

TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) contains more than 3 million pending, registered and dead federal trademarks. TESS provides access to the same text and image database of trademarks as currently provided to examining attorneys at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The fact that a mark is not present in the TESS database does not necessarily mean that the mark is not currently being used as a trademark. The TESS database contains only those trademarks that are Federally registered or that are pending (applications undergoing examination at the USPTO). The TESS database does not contain any information on state, foreign, or common law trademarks. The TESS database does include the available information on inactive applications and registrations (i.e., abandoned applications or canceled or expired registrations). 

Additional resources used in trademark searching:

How to Complete the Trademark Application