The Important of Trademark Clearance



Trademark Search and Clearance (Conflict Analysis)

Two situations for a trademark search & clearance are vital to business decision making.

(1) Before committing resources to production and marketing decisions, a business needs to have a presumption of ownership of a proposed mark and the right to use their trademarks; and

(2) Before committing resources to trademark registration fees and prosecutions costs, a business also needs to have a presumption of ownership and the right to use proposed trademarks, especially if the proposed trademark is going to be used for many classes of goods.

The proposed mark will be refused registration if it so resembles a previously registered federal mark as to be likely, when used with the applicant’s goods and/or services, to cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive. See ConflictingMarks.com for more information on “What is a Conflicting Mark?”

A mark can also be opposed during the publication time period before registration. If a prior owner of a mark believes that a mark published for opposition (or listed on the USPTO site) infringes their prior rights, the prior owner may use this 30-day window to file an opposition. If this window has passed, a prior owner may petition to cancel a registration. One ground for cancellation comes from Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act, where petitioner alleges that respondent’s mark, when used in connection with respondent’s goods, so resembles petitioner’s previously used and registered mark is to be likely to cause confusion. See Grounds for Opposition or Cancellation for more information.


A federal, state, and common law trademark search and clearance (conflict analysis) can verify the right to use the proposed mark by verifying no prior owner has acquired the right by use or registration in federal, state, or common law markets (registered and unregistered).  No search can uncover every used mark but doing a thorough search can substantially decrease the risk of having an opposed trademark or an infringing trademark. Common law rights for unregistered marks are geographic in nature and belong to the first user of a non-conflicting* mark in commerce. A trademark applicant has a legal duty to select a mark which is totally dissimilar to trademarks already being used. (See Newcomers To A Market Should Be Careful In Selecting a Name.)

*A non-conflicting mark has no prior owner. To find a conflict (likelihood of confusion or other), the marks do not have to be identical, and the goods and/or services do not have to be the same. It may be enough that the marks are similar and the goods and/or services related.


The USPTO will not refuse a proposed trademark on the basis of the right to use the mark, only the right to register. The USPTO and the TTAB have no authority to determine the right to use, or the broader questions of infringement or unfair competition (TBMP §102.01), but only the right to register on the federal registers. However, the right to use a mark may be challenged by a prior user under the Lanham Act in federal court. The Lanham Act provides that a registered mark, even if it has become incontestable, still may be challenged "to the extent, if any, to which the use of a mark registered on the principal register infringes a valid right acquired under the law of any State or Territory by use of a mark or trade name continuing from a date prior to the date of registration under this chapter of such registered mark." 15 U.S.C. 1065 as quoted in Advance Stores Co. Inc. v. Refinishing Spec. Inc., 188 F.3d at 411 (6th Cir., 1999).

This is a good time to search out other goods and service categories that may be added later to verify the right to use the mark on these and file an intent to use. Ownership of one registration, even if it is incontestable, does not give the applicant a right to register the same or similar mark for different goods or services, even if they are closely related to the goods or services set forth in the incontestable registration. Reserving the rights in advance with an Intent to Use application may be a good strategy.



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For more information from Not Just Patents, see our other sites:      

Steps to a Patent    How to Patent An Invention

Should I Get A Trademark or Patent?

Trademark e Search    Strong Trademark     Enforcing Trade Names

Common Law Trademarks  Trademark Goodwill   Abandoned Trademarks

Patentability Evaluation

Chart of Patent vs. Trade Secret

Patent or Trademark Assignments

Trademark Disclaimers   Trademark Dilution     TSDR Status Descriptors

Oppose or Cancel? Examples of Disclaimers  Business Name Cease and Desist

Sample Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File    How to Trademark Search

Are You a Content Provider-How to Pick an ID  Specimens: webpages

How to Keep A Trade Secret

State & Federal Trade Secret Laws

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

Shop Rights  What is a Small or Micro Entity?

Patent Drawings

Opposition Pleadings    UDRP Elements    

Oppositions-The Underdog    Misc Changes to TTAB Rules 2017

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

Converting Provisional to Nonprovisional Patent Application (or claiming benefit of)

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

How to Respond to Office Actions

What is a Compact Patent Prosecution?

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register   $199 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Patent search-New invention

Patent Search-Non-Obvious

Trademark Attorney for Overcoming Office Actions Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

TBMP 113 Service of TTAB Documents  TBMP 309 Standing

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion   DuPont Factors

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks?

 Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress  

Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

Differences between TEAS and TEAS plus  

How do I Know If Someone Has Filed for An Extension of Time to Oppose?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

SCAM Letters Surname Refusal


What Does Published for Opposition Mean?

What to Discuss in the Discovery Conference

Descriptive Trademarks Trademark2e.com  

Likelihood of Confusion 2d

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part

Merely Descriptive Trademarks  

Merely Descriptive Refusals

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Register a Trademark-Step by Step  

Protect Business Goodwill Extension of Time to Oppose

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Change of Address with the TTAB using ESTTA

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Not Just Patents Often Represents the Underdog

 Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   

Section 2(d) Refusals   FilingforTrademark.com

Zombie Trademark  

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register?

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

How to Respond Office Actions  

DIY Overcoming Descriptive Refusals

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

Trademark Searching Using TESS  Trademark Search Tips

Trademark Clearance Search   DIY Trademark Strategies

Published for Opposition     What is Discoverable in a TTAB Proceeding?

Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses


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