Likelihood of Link Confusion: Searching For And Linking to Trademark Registrations

Okay, so I saw this group linked to on Twitter:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TrademarkWatchDawgs/

And I have to say this is really an interesting idea. I’m going to go through some of the posts and see how things are going.

But speaking of posts, I noticed that a few people were doing something that happens ALL THE TIME when people try to discuss trademark registrations online: they were posting TESS links instead of TSDR links. As all trademark attorneys know, that doesn’t work.

*record scratch noise*

Say what?

Okay, here’s a quick how-to on posting links to trademark registrations from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO, or sometimes just PTO, for short) website so they work for everybody.

The USPTO has a search engine for searching trademark registrations (and applications, pending, approved, or abandoned.) It’s called TESS, for Trademark Electronic Search System. You get to it by going to http://www.tmsearch.uspto.gov. It looks like this:

It has a couple of different search modes, but most of the time you can do just fine with the “Basic Word Search (New User)” mode. That looks like this:

The post on the Facebook group where I noticed this was about an application for the mark SLIME QUEEN (hey, I don’t judge.) So I put it in the search box. And something a little bit confusing happened. I got this:

Normally when you use a search engine you get a LIST of results, right? Well, if your search has exactly one hit, TESS assumes that’s what you want, and takes you right to its record details. You don’t get a list of one item, it just takes you to the item. If you just put in SLIME, you get this:

If you look up to the top, you see it says it found 257 records. TESS will only show 50 records at a time, so if there are more and you want to scroll through them, you use the “NEXT LIST” and “PREV LIST” buttons at the top (and the bottom, though you can’t see them here) of the current list. Note that SLIME QUEEN is in fact in the results at the end there. If I click on the serial number or the words SLIME QUEEN, I will go to its record detail (the prior picture.)

Now here’s where it gets confusing. That record detail is part of a dynamic search output result. It is only accessible as long as your search session is active – in other words, it’ll go away after a short time. And it’s only accessible by the person who ran the search – you. If you try to post a link from it, when anybody else clicks on it, they’ll just get this:

So. Lesson One: Never post a link from a TESS result. You can identify TESS links because they start with “http://tmsearch.uspto.gov”.

“But Marc,” I hear you cry, “Awesome people like LexLanham, TrademarksAreMagic, and LikelihoodOfConfusion post links to trademark registrations all the time. How do they perform this sorcery?”

Not to worry, you too can achieve these wondrous results! You just have to know about the other part of the system, the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval system (TSDR for short.) Let’s look at that record detail again. See that big blue button right over the mark wording labeled “TSDR”?)

Just click it. (You could also have clicked on the link labeled “TSDR” in the record list, if you were looking at a record list.) That will take you to THIS page:

This page is part of the TSDR, and it’s keyed to the application’s serial number, which never changes.

Lesson Two: If you want to post links to trademark application/registration data, always post a TSDR link. You can identify TSDR links because they start with “http://tsdr.uspto.gov.”

If there is interest, I can write a longer post explaining what some of the things visible in the TSDR page actually mean, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Even though it has what may be the longest post title I’ve ever used, ironically it’s one of the shortest educational posts I’ve made!

As always, comments and questions are welcome in the comments, on Twitter, or you can drop me an email. Thanks for reading!

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