Skip to main content

Patents and Trademarks: 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

Trademark Searching

Searching for Trademarks

TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) contains more than 3 million pending, registered and dead federal trademarks. TESS supports the trademark application process by providing for searching the existing trademark application and registration information via an Internet browser. 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 via the X-Search system.

The date of the last update to TESS is prominently displayed on the search screens. Updates are performed prior to the start of business for the date indicated. Updates are scheduled daily on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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). Information on applications and registrations that were inactive prior to 1984, however, are generally not available on TESS.

Additional resources used in trademark searching:

Subject Guide

Beth Scarborough's picture
Beth Scarborough
133A Atkins Library
UNC Charlotte