How do I research the title of ownership of a trademark?

How do I research the title of ownership of a trademark?

A trademark is something used to identify the products of a particular manufacturer or seller and distinguish them from the products of another. 15 U.S.C. § 1127.  Traditionally a trademark is thought of as a word, phrase or symbol, however many other identifying characteristics such as, color or smell can be eligible for trademark protection.  Trademark law in the United States grants the first user of a trademark the right to exclude subsequent users from using a trademark in a way that is likely to cause consumer confusion.  If someone other than the trademark owner brands product with a trademark in a way that is likely to cause consumer confusion, that can be considered trademark infringement.  A trademark owner can stop trademark infringement by filing a lawsuit which requests an injunction.  A trademark owner can also receive monetary damages for trademark infringement which has occurred.

A trademark can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark, however registration is not required for a trademark user to gain some rights to a trademark.  In the United States using a trademark to brand goods is the key to gaining a claim to a trademark. Despite the fact registration is not required most trademark owners that plan on selling their products outside of a limited geographic area choose to register.

A trademark is a form of intellectual property, and like any other piece of property, a trademark is an asset which can be bought and sold.  The original user of a trademark may assign the trademark another party for a variety of different business reasons.  The United States Patent and Trademark maintains a database of records related to the ownership of registered trademarks.  The public can search the trademark assignment records of the Assignment Recordation Branch on the USPTO website at The assignment database can a valuable resource because there are times when an assignment will not update the name of the trademark owner listed in the trademark principal register.  And even if the trademark owner record on the principal register is accurate, the assignment database contains other information which can be pertinent to ownership of a trademark.  The assignment database records the title of ownership of a registered trademark.  Maintaining this title of ownership is important to preserve the rights that come with federal trademark registration.

Some instruments that relate to registered marks or to marks in pending applications may be recorded in the assignment database, even though they do not constitute a transfer or change of title to the mark or do not convey the entire title or interest in the business in which the mark is used. Typically, these instruments are license agreements, security agreements, and agreements between parties limiting future extension of use of a mark with regard to the goods/services or other circumstances of use. These instruments are recorded to give third parties notification of equitable interests or other matters relevant to the ownership of a mark.  A partial ownership interest in a trademark can also be recorded.

It should be noted that the Assignment Recordation Branch does not scrutinize the documents it records.  The act of recording a document is a ministerial act, and not a determination of the document’s validity or of its effect on title to an application or registration.

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