There are two critical steps in the trademark process. The first step is trademark clearance, and the second is trademark registration. Most brand owners skip the first step when they file their own trademark registrations, which can easily backfire.
So, what is a trademark clearance and why do you need it?
A trademark clearance is a comprehensive search to check for potential problems with your use of a proposed mark. Think of it as the x-ray before surgery which involves a full review of:
- Existing trademarks
- Common law or unregistered trademarks
- Expired trademarks
- Pending trademark applications
- Abandoned trademark applications
When doing this search, you ought to consider two main issues:
- whether any prior applications or registrations are so similar and for such related goods/ services that they are likely to be confused, and;
- whether the potential mark is conceptually strong or weak.
Without the benefit of a proper clearance search, you run the risk of infringing on someone else’s rights which in turn could force you to stop using a brand name for which you have spent a substantial amount of resources on. In the worst-case scenario, you could be held liable for money damages for using someone else’s trademark.
If there’s any part of your business that requires the assistance of an attorney, it is a trademark clearance search. There’s more to it than meets the eye, so please do not skip it.