When searching for images in the USPTO’s TESS trademark database, there are two ways to search: via the ‘description’ field and via the ‘design code’ field. Both are useful and many times both should be used.

The reason both should be used is that, for example, the image below could be described as a word with a smile below it. Or it could be a word with a line and arrow. Or both. If you online search terms in the description field of TESS, it is possible that the applicant and USPTO described the logo quite differently. (Here, the USPTO description currently reads: ‘The mark consists of the word “AMAZON” with an arrow under the word “AMAZON” that is pointing from the “a” to the “z”.’ and makes no reference to a smile.)

In the USPTO records, each image not only contains a description, but a design code. The codes are assigned by the USPTO in accordance with the USPTO’s design code manual.Different types of shapes and images and symbols have different codes – there are hundreds of them. For example, a search for the code 241720 will find all marks that have peace symbols in them (341 current registrations of them when I ran the search this week).

 The main trouble in searching designs is that there is no one way to describe or code them, most designs could be accurately described using a variety of different words. For example, how would you describe this image?
Of course, there is a lot of nuance and experience that goes into searching – and comparing – design images. Just one more reason that an experienced trademark attorney is a great investment.
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