A Brief Guide to Searching for US Trademarks on USPTO’s TESS

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] Trademark searching is a specialized skill, and professional trademark searchers have years of experience with Boolean-style searching and knowledge of trademark legislation and search resources.  Read our interview with  Manager of Trademark Search Services at Landon IP Kimberly Trainor for an in-depth look at the skills required for conducting effective trademark searches.

Trademark searching is a specialized skill, but it can be very useful to have a basic understanding of how to search freely available trademark databases, especially the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).  We’ve looked at  a case study of hunting for turkey trademarks in TESS, and we’ve also looked at two free alternatives to TESS, TMQuest and Trademarkia.  Today, we’ll go back to the basics and look at all the search and viewing features available on TESS.  TESS may not have the most attractive user interface, but it offers surprisingly flexible search options through it’s expert search form.

Continue reading for a run-down on how to use the USPTO’s TESS to search for US trademarks!

Search Options

The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is available through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, and the system allows users to search “the USPTO’s database of registered trademarks and prior pending applications.” TESS offers the following main search options:

  • Basic Word Mark Search – This option cannot be used to search design marks. After selecting the basic option from the TESS homepage, the system will open a fielded search form, with a drop-down menu displaying the search history at the top of the form. The user can select the “Structured” option in the blue horizontal menu at the top of the page to switch to the advanced fielded search form. Select to search “plural and singular” or only singular terms and both Live and Dead, only Live, or only Dead trademarks. A single search form is available where users can enter a query term and select the field (or group of fields) from a drop-down menu. The users may also specify via a drop-down menu that the results must contain all search terms (AND), any search terms (OR), or the exact phrase.

The basic structured search form.

  • Word and/or Design Mark Search (Structured) – This option is used to search word and/or design marks. You must first use the Design Search Code Manual to look up the relevant Design Codes. After selecting the advanced structured option from the TESS homepage, the system will open a fielded search form, with a drop-down menu displaying the search history at the top of the form. Select the “New User” option in the blue horizontal menu at the top of the page to switch to the basic fielded search form. This advanced search form includes the option to define how many records are returned in the search results per page (100-500), and the user can also choose to automatically search for plural versions of terms. Two text forms are available, connected by a Boolean operator (which the user can select from a drop-down menu). Drop down menus are positioned adjacent to each text box where the user can select from all available fields.

The advanced structured search form.

  • Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form) – This option allows you to construct word and/or design searches using Boolean logic and multiple search fields. You must first use the Design Search Code Manual to look up the relevant Design Codes. This form functions as a command line interface where the user can construct complex queries using all available field codes and operators. See the chart of US Trademark Field Codes below the form for reference on available fields, and select a field code to view further instructions on constructing the query with that field code. The chart links to various sections of the TESS Help Menu, which provides the user with full, detailed guidance on constructing search queries using the system syntax. Above the command line form, users can define the number of records returned per page (100-500) and whether or not to automatically search for plurals.

The expert search form (command line).

Besides the three main search forms, additional search features offered on the site include:

  • Browse Dictionary – This option browses all fields in the database unless you limit to a particular field. Results are returned in a dictionary-style (alphabetic) format. In the search form, enter a key word and the search returns an alphabetical list of terms containing the keyword, along with the number of related documents and hits for each term.
  • Search OG Publication Date or Registration Date – This option searches the Official Gazette for marks published or registered on a particular date. Search by “publish for opposition” date or registration date, and combine the date with a search term (with a field selected from the drop-down menu).

Viewing Options

After conducting a search, the user is taken to a hit list that displays the serial number, registration number, word mark, and status (Live/Dead) for each result. A link is also provided for each result to check the trademark’s status on the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval (TARR) server. Between 100 and 500 results are displayed per page (depending on the options selected by the user on the search form). Above the hit list, the user can opt to start the list at a particular record number or jump to a specific record number. The user may also edit the syntax of their query directly from the hit list to refine the result. Below the “refine” text box, the hit list displays the current query, total number of records, and total number of occurrences.

The main hit list.

Use the menu at the top of the page to navigate to the next or previous pages of results by selecting “Prev List” or “Next List.” Choose the “Image List” option to view a hit list displaying visual representations of the mark. Select the “Back to Hit List” option to return to the original hit list display.

The image hit list.

Select a record title to view the full record for a trademark. The full record includes:

  • A link to the trademark’s status on TARR
  • A link to the ASSIGN status
  • A link to documents related to the mark on the Trademark Document Retrieval (TDR) system
  • A link to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board status
  • An image of the mark
  • Bibliographic data related to the mark

The user can select the back button on their browser to return to the hit list.

A full record.


TESS has a very basic, no-frills interface that appears visually unattractive and cluttered with text.  However, TESS offers flexible search options through the expert search form, where the user can utilize a wide variety of field codes, operators, and parentheses to craft detailed queries.   Users who will feel most comfortable on TESS and who will utilize the system in a thorough and efficient manner are probably professional trademark searchers, who have experience with command-line searching and knowledge of various trademark classification systems.  Many free databases of both US and global trademarks are available online which all users can access, but if you need to make a legal or business decision based on a trademark search, it’s best to rely on professional trademark searchers who know how to expertly utilize both free and subscription search systems.

Have you used TESS? How do you think the system can be improved?  Let us know in the comments!

Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.


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  1. […] A Brief Guide to Searching for US Trademarks on USPTO’s TESS […]

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