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How To: Do a Trademark Search

Last month when we switched from HackWordPress.com to WPHacks.com, I mentioned that one part of the move was due to the trademark violation in the old domain name (WordPress is a trademarked term).

Looking back, I really wish I would have known about the trademark prior to launching the blog.   Moving your blog to a new domain name can be a huge hassle (I explained what was involvedhere) and your blog will usually take a huge hit in the search engine rankings (either temporarily or permanently).   This is because most of those backlinks accrued over the past year are pointing towards the old domain name, etc.

Being someone who manages quite a large sized domain portfolio (300+ domains), I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year or so learning how to do a trademark search when researching what domains to invest my money in and which domains I want to develop into web properties.   There seems to be a good amount of interest from others wanting to know how to do this, so hopefully this post will fill that need.

Why Should I Worry About Trademark Violations?

Before I explain how to do a trademark search, I wanted to quickly discuss why avoiding trademark violations is so important.   A trademark is filed by a company to protect their brand.

How many of you call tissues “Kleenex”?  Kleenex describes one brand of tissues, but because they did not protect their trademark, the term Kleenex has instead become a generic term for tissues.  This of course caused them to lose any control they might have had over how their name is used.

Like any good company would, Automattic wants to protect the term “WordPress” from becoming a generic term.   This is why they do not allow others to use the term “WordPress” in their domain name.   This can lead to confusion with readers who believe that the domain is an official WordPress site or affiliated in some way with WordPress, which could eventually lead to problems for WordPress users (if the content is bad, incorrect, or the site is malicious in some way).

Because of this, most trademark holders will go a long way to protect their brand, including filing lawsuits.   Lawsuits, or threatening lawsuits, has become very common with people registering names like FacebookApplications.com, DiggThis.com, etc.    In order to avoid complications, avoid being forced to pull down a website/blog, or having to move your site to a new domain, you’ll want to first make sure that your potential domain/website is free of any trademarks.

Note:  If you register a domain prior to a trademark being filed by a company, that company usually won’t have rights to take the domain from you UNLESS you are displaying ads on the site or somehow making money off their brand.  Keep this in mind if you own a domain and an upstart grows popular fast.

How To Do a Trademark Search

Okay, so now you know why doing a trademark search is so important.   Here are the 5 steps you need to follow to do a trademark search:

  1. Visit the US government’s sitesearch page.
  2. Click Search at the top of the right sidebar menu.
  3. Click New User Form Search (Basic).
  4. In the Search Term field, you’ll want to enter the keyword you want to check on the trademark of.
  5. Click Submit Query.

When doing your search, you’ll want to make sure to search for your term with and without spaces. An example would be if you were looking for Burger King, you would try both “burgerking” and “burger king”.

If you follow the above steps and search for the term “wordpress” you’ll see that it is indeed trademarked, but you can use this method to search for just any keyword you want to.   I recommend doing this prior to ever launching a website of any kind, just to make sure.   I also used this process after picking my business name to ensure that I wouldn’t run the risk of losing my business identity at some point down the road.

Are you always doing a trademark search prior to launching a new website or blog?

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