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Deep Dive: Basics of the All-New USPTO Search System!

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has finally replaced their old TESS search system with a new and improved interface! As I’ve said before, the old TESS looked like something straight out of 1998. This new search system is cleaner and simpler, but just like with TESS, there are some things to learn. So let’s dive in!

First off, how do we get there? The easiest way is to follow this link: USPTO trademark search. Or if you’d like to start from the basic USPTO.gov website, you totes can. From the home page, select Trademarks, and then “Search our Trademark Database” under the “Application Process” section.

Accessing trademark search through the USPTO website

 

Then click on the green button to get into the trademark search system.

Entering the search tool through the USPTO website.

 

And here we are, at the home page of the new trademark search! There are two main areas that we’ll be using the most today: the search bar, and the Help section.

The search bar and the Help section.

 

Before we start searching, let’s take a look into the Help area. It says it has “answers to frequently asked questions,” but there is SO MUCH MORE in there.

The basic area of the help section.

 

The Basic tab has a guide on how to do a basic search, and a lot of other helpful stuff. But I spend most of my time over in the Advanced tab.

The Advanced section of the Help area.

 

I highly recommend taking a look at the “Examples for common searches” area when you’re done with this article; I’m going to throw together some searches here, but that section will give you even more examples that you can build from.

The “Search fields” section is also going to be a gigantic help, but let’s hold off on that for a moment; we’ll come back to that tab shortly. Right now, I’m going to click on “Home” in the upper left of the page, so we can get back to that main search bar.

You’ll see this “Search by all” drop-down menu to the left of the search bar; this lets you choose one of several different elements of a trademark registration to search. If you know you’re looking for a specific owner, you can choose Owner here! If you know the serial number or registration number, you can choose that as well. But you don’t have to use those if you don’t want to! If you’d rather keep it simple, you can just leave this on “Search by all.”

Field search from the home page.

 

There’s also this Basic/Expert toggle on the right. Do you need to worry about that? Nawww. I leave it on Basic most of the time. I’m not going to get into Expert mode in this article; Basic will work for everything we need when doing simple searches, so why complicate things?

Basic or Expert mode

 

At this point, I’m sure you’re saying, “Hey, Missy, are we ever going to actually SEARCH for things?”

YES! Let’s start searching!

For our first search, let’s do a very simple word or phrase. Since our buddy Mickey Mouse entered the copyright public domain this year due to his first appearance in Steamboat Willie in 1928, let’s see if his name is registered as a trademark! (Once you enter your text, you can either click on the magnifying glass, or just hit the Enter key to submit your search request.)

First basic mickey mouse search.

 

And what a first search it is: nearly 50,000 results!

First search results: nearly 50k for mickey mouse.

 

Let’s take a look at a few things on this search results page before we continue.

First off, the site automatically pops open the “Status filter” on the left side. Here you have the option to uncheck some of these options (Live, Dead, and subsets of those) in order to filter your results. It’s always going to default to showing you everything, unless you use Search Fields (Remember those from the Help section? We’re going to get to them soon!) to eliminate the dead stuff.

You’ll also want to know about those three icon buttons up on the right side, which will show you either the big grid view, the medium list view, or the small list view of your search results.

Big grid view (default):

Big grid view

 

Medium list view:

Medium list view

 

Small list view:

Small list view

 

As you can see, the big grid and the medium list show mostly the same amount of information, while the small list cuts out a few things to save space. I tend to use one of the list views, but you can use whatever floats your boat!

The right side also has this “Export” drop-down, with a couple of options. The main one I use is “First 500 results”; I use that when I’m making my lists of new applications each week. They don’t yet have the ability to sort these search results alphabetically (though it’s on their to-do list), so I export my search results to an Excel spreadsheet and alphabetize them there. Right now, the search results are sorted by “relevance,” which can sometimes be a little weird, but generally serves you up the best options first.

Export options menu

 

Anyhoo, we aren’t going to use that export feature today; just thought I’d point it out.

All right, let’s start refining our Mickey Mouse search so that we don’t have to sift through 50k results to find what we need. Remember when I said earlier that we’d get around to Search Fields later on? That time is now!

Here’s an image of the first bit of that “Search fields” section over on the Help page. I know, I know, it’s a bunch of complicated-looking nonsense. You can go check out that page later, but I’m going to make the basics really simple.

Search fields list

 

There’s a 2-letter code for all of the searchable fields in trademark applications and registrations. In the old TESS system, you’d put that 2-letter code inside brackets after the thing you were searching for. So if you were filtering for International Class 025, you’d use “025[ic]”. In this new database, things have switched around: the 2-letter code goes first, and it needs to be all uppercase. You then use a colon, and then put the thing you’re searching for afterward. So our class 025 search becomes “IC:025” instead.

We’ll start by putting Mickey Mouse inside a search field, so that we can pile more search fields in with it. I’m going to use the search field CM, which stands for “Combined Mark.” This is the most commonly-used field, and it searches a couple of different areas, including the Word field (the literal text of the mark) and the Translation field (so if the mark is Chat Noir, which translates to Black Cat, it would still come up in a search for “black cat”).

Because Mickey Mouse is more than one word, I’ll put it in quotation marks when using it with a search field tag. Our search is now CM:"mickey mouse".

Searching by Combined Mark

 

And what a difference that makes – we’re down from nearly 50k results to only 33! The search system automatically changed from “Search by all” to “Search by field tag” next to the search bar, because we’ve included that CM tag in there.

Why were there so many results before, and so few now? Well, when we just searched by all, we got every result with either “mickey” or “mouse” in any field. So it was not only Mickey Mouse stuff; we got items that had a mouse illustration, or items where the owner’s name is Mickey, or things where “Mouse” is part of the company name, plus a whole lot more. Thus, 50k results. I’ve seen a lot of people get confused or discouraged because their search gives them thousands of results; nobody has time to look through all that!

We’re down to 33 results, but it’s still a few too many. Let’s add a couple more search fields. You can pile in as many as you want to; just use an all-uppercase AND between each one. I’m going to first filter out the dead stuff (cancelled and abandoned) by using the LD (live/dead) tag. This one is a little weird; you’ll follow up your LD tag with either “true” (for live) or “false” (for dead). So we’re going for LD:true.

**Reminder note here: “live” does not mean registered! When an application is submitted to the USPTO, it’s immediately given a serial number for tracking, and it’s set to “live.” It stays that way through the application process, and remains live if the mark is finally registered months later. A mark only becomes “dead” when either the application is abandoned, or the mark is cancelled.

Let’s also add in a tag so that we filter for only registered marks – we don’t want anything that’s still in the application stage. For that, we’ll use the RN tag. Under the old TESS system, we had to do a weird thing for this: `RN > “0”, which basically told the system to only give us stuff where there was a number greater than zero in the Registration Number field. The new way is simpler; we just use RN:*, where the asterisk says “if there’s something there, anything at all, show it to me.”

Our search is now: CM:"mickey mouse" AND LD:true AND RN:*

Refining search with Live or Dead and Registration Number tags

 

Down to 21 search results, fantastic! But it’s still more than I want to sift through. Let’s add a couple more search field tags!

Let’s definitely add in the International Class, so that we can filter by the types of goods and services the mark covers. I’ll search in the clothing class, 025, by adding in IC:025.

And we’ll also add in the Mark Drawing Code field, MD. By using this, we can ignore all of the illustrated marks, and only see the ones that are straight-up plain text – the kind we all hate. Since the USPTO used to use code 1 for these types of marks before November 2003, and now use code 4, we’ll include them both. (Want to know more about those drawing codes? I have a whole post about them!) I’ll add in the all-uppercase OR between the two, and put those between parentheses, so that we’ll get results that are either code 1 or code 4.

Our search is now: CM:"mickey mouse" AND LD:true AND RN:* AND IC:025 AND MD:(1 OR 4)

Adding in International Class and Mark Drawing Code search fields

 

Holy guacamole, we’re down to just 3 results! All 3 are live, registered, plain text marks that cover goods in class 025. I don’t think we could ask for better than that, considering that we started out with nearly 50,000 search results.

Let’s touch on those parentheses we used in that MD:(1 OR 4) addition. You can also use AND or TO inside the parentheses! Here are a couple of examples:

IC:(025 AND 014) – this would search for registrations that have both the clothing class and the jewelry class in the same registration.

RN:(3111222 TO 3111333) – this one searches for all registration numbers that fall between the two listed. When I’m searching for the week’s newest applications, I use this type of search to get all newly filed applications within a span of dates.

And here are a few more field tags I think you’ll find handy:

FM – Full Mark. This is when you know the exact mark you’re searching for. Our use of CM:"mickey mouse" earlier included results like MICKEY MOUSE CLUB; if you used FM:"mickey mouse" instead, it would only give you items where the exact text of the mark was MICKEY MOUSE.

ON – Owner Name. Helpful when you want to find something owned by someone! For example, here I’m searching for any type 2 marks (illustrations without text) owned by Disney.

An Owner Name search for Disney

 

RG – Which register the mark is on. You can use this to see if items are on the principal (main) register, or the supplemental register. And yes, my next post is going to be about the Supplemental Register: what it is, who it’s for, and how it’s currently being abused.

GS – Goods and Services. This lets you get even more refined within an International Class (IC), by searching for specific goods in that class. For example, let’s add a GS search for socks to our Mickey Mouse search:

A Goods and Services search example

 

I’ve used GS:*sock* in order to get sock, socks, or anything else that contains “sock”. We used an asterisk previously in the Registration Number field, where it indicated “anything can be here, as long as there’s something.” It’s basically serving a similar purpose here: we’re requiring “sock,” but we’re allowing for there to be something before or after it. Likewise, you could use GS:*shirt* in order to get not only shirt, but also T-shirt or shirts or sweatshirts.

Those are all mainly for text marks, but what about if you want to look up an illustrated mark? We have search fields for those, too!

DE: Description of Mark. This lets you describe the mark in a few words. You can use the parentheses and multiple words, with AND between if you require all words to be in there, or OR if you need one or the other. Here’s a search just for the word “paw”:

description of an illustrated mark

 

MD: Mark Drawing Code. I have a whole blog post about these codes. This field combines really well with the DE code above; here we’re using both to refine that we’re only looking for illustrations with no text (MD:2, which is the drawing code for purely illustrated marks with no letters included), plus a paw and a heart.

Refining search with description and mark drawing code

 

DD: Design Code. Here you can search for the 6-digit design code that applies to the illustration in a mark. How can you find those codes? There’s a database for that! Visit the Trademark Design Search Code Manual, where you can search for keywords to find your 6-digit code, or you can browse in the Table of Categories below. (Warning: if you browse the table, you will be sucked in, and you’ll spend far too much time laughing at the examples. I mean, Swiss Miss can see INTO YOUR SOUL.)

Here we’ve searched the manual for “paw,” and it looks like 03.13.01 is our code. These 6-digit codes are all 3 levels deep; in this case, the top level (03) is “animals,” the middle level (13) refines us to “parts of the body (excluding heads, they have their own section) of mammals and primates other than humans,” and then the last part (01) gets us to “paws, feet, and paw prints of mammals and primates other than humans.”

Animal paw search results in the design code manual

 

And I can confirm that it’s correct; here’s one of our previous search results of a paw with a heart, and it’s using that same code for the paw portion.

An active registration with the animal paw design code

 

Note: when using the design code in a search, you can include those periods between the numbers, or you can remove them. So a search for DD:03.13.01 and DD:031301 would both get you what you want.

There’s SO much more to learn beyond these basics: coordinated classes, formatting regular expressions, quantifiers, wildcards, logical operators, lions and tigers and bears, oh my! If you visit the “Advanced” tab in the Help area and choose “Regular expressions,” you can dig into a lot more of these features.

 

Troubleshooting

If you’re having trouble getting your search to work, these are the most common issues I’ve seen so far:

Case: make sure your search field tags are in uppercase, and your search text is lowercase. It’s a fussy search system. (But then again, aren’t they all?)

Colons: be sure you’re following your search field tag with a colon. “IC 025” won’t work, but “IC:025” will.

Curly Quotes: If you’re copying and pasting in a search string from elsewhere, the straight up-and-down quotation marks may have been changed to curly quotes or “smart quotes.” The USPTO system prefers the straight up-and-down quotes, "like these." So if you do a copy/paste, you may need to select each quotation mark and re-type it in. (I’ve forced straight quotes in this post whenever I’ve used them as they would appear in a search string, so hopefully those should be copy/paste-able!)

So I guess it’s … “The 3 Cs of Search Problems.” I may revise this list as more issues are reported. Maybe I’ll try to make them all start with C.

 

Common Search Field Tags

Here’s a collection of the most commonly-used search field tags for casual searchers. I’ve included an example for each one, so you can copy and paste those elements into your search. Just remember:

– You can chain a bunch of these together by adding an uppercase AND between them!
– To search exact multi-word phrases, put them in "quotation marks".
– To search a span of dates, use parentheses and TO, and format your dates as YYYYMMDD. Example: FD:(20240101 TO 20240131)
– To search for one thing or the other, use parentheses and OR. Example: CM:(this OR that)
– To search for two things together, use parentheses and AND. Example: CM:(this AND that)

 

TAGFIELDSAMPLEWHAT IT SEARCHES
CMCombined MarkCM:campingText that appears in the mark.
DDDesign CodeDD:021116Filters for marks with specific design codes.
DEDescription of MarkDE:mountainDescribes elements in an illustrated mark.
FDFiling DateFD:(20240101 TO 20240131)The date when the initial application was filed.
FMFull MarkFM:"good vibes"The full, exact text of the mark.
GSGoods/ServicesGS:*shirt*The list of covered goods and services.
ICInternational ClassIC:025Marks registered in that specific international class. (Use 3 digits.)
LDLive/DeadLD:true / LD:false“True” filters for live marks; “false” gives you dead marks.
MDMark Drawing CodeMD:(1 OR 4)Filters for marks in specific drawing codes.
ONOwner NameON:disneyThe name of the owner of the mark.
RGRegisterRG:principalFilters for principal or supplemental register.
RNRegistration #RN:1234567A specific registration number.
RNRegistration #RN:*Filters for marks that have been assigned a registration #.
SNSerial #SN:12345678A specific serial number.

 

 
That’s it for the basics; enjoy searching! And if you have any questions, I’m always a message away; drop me a note over at my contact form, and I’ll see if I can help!

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