How to Do a Trademark Search - The Johnny Manziel Edition
Regardless of whether you intend to ever register a trademark for business use, it is a useful skill to have to find out exactly what someone who does register a mark owns and in what format and whether it could possibly conflict with a mark you are interested in using. There are multiple requirements that a mark must satisfy to be a mark for "any word, name, symbol, or device" on goods ("trademark") or services ("service mark"). Remarkably, trademarks differ from patents because trademarks do not necessarily have to be registered to receive protection, though there is a long list of benefits that registration grants.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the governing body that determines what may be registered because not all applications are accepted. For notice's sake and for efficiency's sake, all applicants put other potential users in the respective market on notice of their claims to own a mark by "publishing" their application in the USPTO's database. Indeed, this means that the public has access to every prior pending and accepted trademark application as well as the corresponding documents between the USPTO and the applicant or owner. Here, I will use Johnny Manziel and his ten trademark applications to demonstrate a step-by-step of how to conduct a trademark search on the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) because, honestly, who does not want to see what brand this kid is trying to establish?
Step 1: Go to the USPTO website (www.uspto.gov) and click the "search for trademarks" link above the search box in the upper right corner of the page. This link takes you directly to TESS and gives you some information on the database itself.
Step 2: Under the Select a Search Option section, you will see three types of searches you can conduct and a description of what each type of search will lead to what information. Select the type of search pertaining to your inquiry. Here, because we are interested in the Johnny Manziel applications (i.e., nothing advanced), we will select the first type, "Basic Word Mark Search (New User)."
Step 3: "Plural and Singular" and "Live and Dead" are selected by default. That is totally fine to leave alone, and in searching for a mark, it may be smart to have a broad search to see if a likelihood of consumer confusion, which would establish a rebuttable presumption of no rights to your unregistered mark, could result from your mark and another mark. Type in the search term you are interested in looking up. Here, we will type in "JMAN2 ENTERPRISES," Manziel's company that filed the trademark applications. Select "ALL" in Field, "All Search Terms (AND)" for Results Must Contain, and submit your query.
VOILA! Lo, and behold, you will see the ten marks that Manziel has applied for: (1) JOHNNY FOOTBALL; (2) JMAN2; (3) JMAN; (4) MANZIIEL, in standard character form; (5) JIIM, in standard character form; (6) JFF; (7) THE HOUSE THAT JOHNNY BUILT; (8) JIIM, in stylized form; (9) MANZIIEL, in stylized form; and (10) JOHNNY FOOTBALL. To find further information on each individual trademark application, such as the status, the mark information, the attorney who filed the application, and the goods and services the mark covers, click on the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval link (TSDR) in the chart. There, you can also find the application itself and any accompanying documents like drawings.
There you have it. You now know where Johnny Manziel is trying to protect his heavenly name saying, "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" and "DOLLA DOLLA BILL, Y'ALL!" Have fun playing around with your newly found ability. We all know this list of ten records will only grow.