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New Alternative for Trademark Searchers:
Posted On May 8, 2000 (, a division of Information Holdings, Inc., has announced a Web-based trademark database service scheduled for launch on May 15. Targeted at trademark attorneys, in-house counsel, research and development professionals, small businesses, et al., it will offer a comprehensive set of databases covering U.S. trademarks—federal and state—along with over 800,000 "common law" trademarks. Integration of common law trademark information with official trademark files will, according to a representative, represent a first-time availability on the Web. The new service also promotes a different pricing scheme from that of established trademark data provider Thomson and Thomson ( For federal trademarks only, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ( has introduced the Trademark Electronic Search System, available for no charge.

Files on will cover federal trademark registrations and those for all 50 states. It includes all pending U.S. federal trademark applications and all active registrations since 1884. The system also carries 15 years of inactive records. By June, the company plans to inaugurate international trademark coverage, starting with Canada and the U.K., according to Lynn Tellefsen, vice president of marketing at Data for comes from's subsidiaries MicroPatent, Faxpat, Optipat,, and Master Data Center. The new Web service integrates common law trademarks—those established by long practice but not necessarily officially registered. may someday replace MicroPatent's MarkSearch Pro service, which offers $50 day-long subscriptions to unlimited searching, according to Tellefsen.

The new service will update three times a week and also access the USPTO's 24-hour box application information. Users can arrange single or multi-database access. The system has a Class Lookup tool for searchers starting a search. The databases integrate sound-alike and look-alike trademarks, as well as other machine-generated links between records, such as the elimination of punctuation or singular/plural problems, but their data does not, according to Tellefsen, use human indexing.

The 800,000 trademarks in the initial common law file come from brand and company names, e.g., telephone directories. More are being added all the time, including domain names. In time the company hopes to expand coverage into specific industry collections. When that happens, Tellefsen expects searchers would start a search in a fundamental collection and then move on to common law terms used in specific industries. Thomson and Thomson's Saegis service recently introduced a Pharma In-Use service that verifies trademark usage for pharmaceutical and health care products and services in 60 countries. will charge $85 for a 4-hour session as an introductory offer. This pricing should continue for up to 60 days, said Tellefsen. After that, the price "will not go past $125." By the way, Tellefsen assured us that if a searcher accidentally had a power outage or broken line connection in the middle of a session, would be very understanding. Just a call would take care of the billing problem.

In contrast, the standard pricing for Thomson and Thomson's Saegis trademark service runs 5 cents per simple trademark image and $2.50 for a full record. An "AutoQuery" on Saegis provides extensive search assistance and up to 75 hits for $50. Tellefsen alleged that the cost of an effective standard search on Saegis would run around $90, which makes the expansion to more than the $85 introductory offer on seem somewhat troublesome.

Many of Thomson and Thomson's databases also appear on DIALOG as Trademarkscan files: U.S. State, File 246; Community Trademarks, File 227; U.S. Federal, File 226; Canada, File 127; U.K., File 126; Spain, File 228; France, File 657; Switzerland, File 661; Austria, File 662; Monaco, File 663; International Register (WIPO), File 671; Germany, File 672; Italy, File 673; Liechtenstein, File 677. Prices for searching Trademarkscan files on Dialog run $5.50 per DialUnit, plus from $1.50 to $2.20 per trademark.

The problem with per-item pricing, according to Tellefsen, lies in its discouraging effect on scanning lots of candidates. Browsing through lots of possibilities comprises the best technique for searching trademark data. Fixing a price for extended searching supports that approach. Corporate users can also subscribe to for a negotiated annual fee, which should run, according to Tellefsen, around $10,000.

Information Holdings, Inc.,'s parent, owns many providers of products and services for the scientific, technical, medical, and intellectual property markets. For example, they also own CRC Press. Patex, another recent service from, provides a licensing exchange for patents and technologies to the business-to-business (B2B) marketplace. In time, according to Tellefsen, they hope to develop an intellectual property portal service, linking multiple databases, along with community services like discussion forums, chat service, government forms, and unique editorial material designed specifically for the portal.

Free information remains a Web competitor as usual. Even Thomson and Thomson offers its WHOIS database for verifying domain name owners at no charge. It covers all ICANN-accredited registrars, not just Network Solutions, Inc. The USPTO Web Trademark Database carries full bibliographic text of pending and registered trademarks published in the Official Gazette. However, updates are less frequent with this service. For example pending trademark applications usually go into the database some 3 months after filing. Fortunately, the USPTO posts complete notices on the limitations of its databases and advises users to read them before performing any searches. The USPTO databases offer combined mark searches (word mark, pseudo-mark, translation), number search (registration or serial number), and Boolean searching. They also have a trademark status server and the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). TESS offers a search form for a structured form search, free form and advanced search, and a browse dictionary. Currently, a pilot project with over 2.7 million records of pending, registered, and dead trademarks, TESS will ultimately replace the USPTO Web Trademark Database.

Quality going up, access going up, prices going down! Our Web at work.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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