In the USA, there are two concerns when choosing a trademark. First, can the trademark be used in commerce, i.e., is anyone using it for similar goods or services? Second, can the trademark be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? Trademarks are probably the most flexible form of Intellectual property protection a designer or artist can secure. While the filing fee is more than that of a copyright, the trademark has several features that make the $275 well worth the investment, especially ince a trademark registration will remain in force indefinitely provided you pay the initial maintenance fees and renew the registration every 10 years. in addition a trademark can protect a word, a logo, a color, the shape of an object or device and even a sound. It is important to remember, that each class of goods or services will require its own fee. If you wish to register your trademark in two classes, then a $550 filing fee will be required.
The US Patent and Trademark Office website has a large body of information, all freely available to anyone who visits. The methods and guidelines for searching for logos, determining how various goods or services are classified can be found here, and you can find the class of goods or services associated with your trademark here. If you wish to search for logos, you can go here and use the Keyword Search function to see trademarks that may have a similar appearance to your trademark.
If you find that a trademark registration already exists with goods or services that are similar to yours, you may still be able to secure a registration if your goods or services are different and not likely to be logically related to those of the prior registration. However, your searching should not end there. Searching via Google or Bing will also help determine whether someone else is using your trademark, or someone who did not seek a federal registration but, whose prior use of the trademark could pose a risk to your using the trademark across the country. Remember, a U.S. trademark registration is only effective in the United States. If you wish to protect your trademark in the European Union, it is possible to file one application that will be effective for all 14 member countries and, as can be expected, is more expensive than a U.S. filing. It is also possible to file individual trademark applications on a country by country basis, but this is a very expensive process.
You can search the trademark databases of the European Union here. Most industrialized nations maintain an online trademark database and, with a little diligence, it is possible to search the trademark databases of almost every country that has any kind of significant business or manufacturing national infrastructure. For example, you can search the trademark database of the People's Republic of China, and you can search the Korean Trademark database, and the Japan Patent and Trademark Office. The United Kingdom's trademark database is here, and the Australian trademark register can be searched here. Developing a strong trademark requires some effort but searching before you finalize your trademark or logo design is always the best first step. in addition, it is an effort that will help to ensure that your clients can use your design work with a greater chance of success.