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Many people prefer to pay a professional search firm to handle a trademark search rather than do it themselves. This can make sense if your financial plans justify an initial outlay of several hundred dollars, the minimum cost for a thorough professional search for both registered and unregistered marks. Various companies offer professional searches, the most well-known of which is Thomson Compumark (www.thomson-thomson.com).
The trademark search report you will receive will consist of a list of similar federally registered marks, pending marks, and marks that have been canceled or abandoned, a survey of similar state registrations, and an examination of numerous sources of unregistered users of similar marks, brand names, and trade names.
If you work with an attorney when acquiring the trademark search, you will also get a legal opinion as to whether your proposed mark is legally safe to use in light of existing registered and unregistered marks. Obtaining a legal opinion may provide important protection down the road if someone later sues you for using the mark. For help finding an attorney, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory or Nolo's article How to Find an Excellent Lawyer.