World Intellectual Property Organization

Conducting Trademark Searches

As a first step to protecting trademarks, you are advised to conduct a trademark search to make sure that the mark in question is not already in use by another enterprise in the target market(s). Trademark offices in many countries register marks without comparing them with existing trademark registrations and applications received earlier, but leave it to your future competitors to give notice of opposition once the mark or the application has been published/registered. Therefore, obtaining trademark registration in such countries is no guarantee that the trademark will not be infringing on the rights of others. It is therefore important, wherever possible, to search national trademark databases prior to using a trademark for your export operations.

Trademark searches may be conducted through online databases (though few countries currently offer such services), specialized firms, or at the national trademark registry. It is important to bear in mind that, while trademarks which are identical to your own mark can be easily identified, confusingly similar trademarks that conflict with your own will be more difficult to spot. Depending on the merits of the case, it may be advisable to use the services of a competent trademark agent or attorney for a trademark search for your SME.

Since most trademarks (with the exception of “well-known marks”) only protect the goods or services for which they are registered as well as those goods or services that are similar to those for which the trademark is registered, your registered trademark may be lawfully used by others for marketing goods or services that are unrelated to those of your SME.

Explore WIPO