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Trademarks and the ‘likelihood of confusion’

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2023 | Patent Law

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may refuse trademark registration if they found any grounds for “likelihood of confusion” during clearance searches.  This exists when an applicant’s mark and a pre-existing application or a registered mark are so similar that they may appear to belong to the same source.

While there is no established process that exists for determining the likelihood of confusion, there are ways for an applicant to avoid it.

Establish a unique, personal brand

According to the USPTO, similarity does not only focus on the actual appearance of a mark. The sound and meaning of a brand may also be sufficient to support a finding of the likelihood of confusion. For example, a clothing line business named “JL Collections” may be found in conflict with another clothing rental store with the name “J&L Collections.”

Although coming up with a unique brand identity may be a tough job, it’s worth taking the time to do so. Making it more personal will lessen the possibility of being confused with other businesses.

Conduct clearance searches

There are several trademark search tools available online. Applicants can use these tools to search for registered trademarks that may be similar to their brand before filing a trademark registration. The USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is one example.

However, applicants should not expect that the USPTOs database will have all registrations covered. They cannot help you interpret the results of your searches either. If you need help interpreting data or conducting a more thorough trademark search, it would be wise to consult with a trademark attorney.

Meanwhile, you can also search social media platforms and online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

While the process is easy, applying to register your trademark with the USPTO entails time and costs. Coming up with a mark that is unique can help avoid the likelihood of confusion during clearance searches.