The Boston Public Library is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center. The staff at the Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center can help answer your patent and trademark questions.
Staff can assist with the following:
Staff can provide instruction in how to do search for patents and trademarks, but does not perform actual searches for patrons.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 617.536.5400 and ask for Kirstein. The Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center is located on the lower level of 700 Boylston Street.
Trademarks are the most esoteric of the intellectual property family. At first blush, all seems basic. One has a company, product, or service whose name or symbol they want to protect. As long as no one else is using it, it can be registered, right? Wrong. The most common reason for the rejection of a trademark application is "likelihood of confusion." If you are thinking about applying for a federal trademark, please read the USPTO's booklet Protecting Your Trademark, which explains this and other issues quite well.
On the other hand, what a trademark is is remarkably basic. It is a representation, in words or symbols, of a business, product, or service. One does not need to trademark a business name or the name of a product or service, but in doing so, legal protections are established. If one does not want to expend the time and money to register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there are alternatives. One can register a trademark with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth's Corporations Division. However, the protections given would apply only to Massachusetts. If the business were to expand, a federal trademark might be warranted.
The section of the Trademark Act on registration begins "No trademark...shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of it's nature unless..." It is the unless that makes trademark registration complicated. While some of the reasons for rejection are clear cut- immoral, deceptive, scandalous matter, matter that disparages or provides a false connection, the registration of United States, state, municipal, and foreign flags, coats of arms, or insignia, using a representation of a living person without their permission, or use of a representation of a living President or a deceased President whose spouse is still alive without permission. Beyond those, there are common grounds for refusal.
The searching of registered Trademarks is done through the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). While one might think that a simple search of words would indicate if a word or phrase is available to be trademarked, this might not be the case. If your planned mark might lead to confusion with another registered mark, it might not be approved. Your best move would be to search similar words to make sure your mark won't be at risk of being rejected.
Something related to trademarks are internet website domain names. Unlike a business name, a domain name definitely needs to be registered. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has oversight of naming conventions, but registering a domain name is handled by authorized domain name registrars.
There is a chance that one could register a domain name and in using the domain name violate trademark law. The easiest way to avoid this and the litigation that could follow is to check the USPTO Trademark Database to make sure the name is not being used in commerce by someone else.