Saying goodbye to a dinosaur. You’ve probably used TESS—the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System—if you've tried naming a product or business and wanted to see if someone already had the name.

That tool is going away at the end of this month, but before it does, I got to try out its replacement, TM Search.

It’s a paradigm shift in user experience.

TESS was launched in 1982 as an internal tool for the government. It was a big deal—all the trademarks ever, on a system that was being powered by electricity, obviously. Public access to the files migrated online in the 1990s. But as useful as it is to have intellectual property records digitized, the TESS website has seen few functional updates over time.

There are some advanced options and filters, but the interface is awkward and slow. The more you use it, the more you end up learning a formulaic shorthand to quickly find what you want (or don’t want).

Bonus points if you can decipher: (live)[LD] AND (ne?t[V0:1]r)[COMB] AND ((041)[IC] OR (042)[IC] OR (043)[IC])

Like tapping your tongue to a nine-volt battery, there was a sick thrill to navigating the dated imperfections of TESS. But there's a reason it was largely untouched—it is, after all, a federally-managed database for a sub-section of the United States Patent and Trademark Office falling under the general jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. Buried.

But no more! The USPTO has announced TM Search to take over for TESS on November 30, 2023. I like how TM Search has many search-friendly bells and whistles. Easy-to-use filters, radio buttons, advanced refinement. The visuals are in color. You can choose to view in gallery or list. I really like what I've seen and haven't encountered issues.

If stuff like this couldn't bore you more, but you still need to name something without getting sued, please hit me up for help.

Joe Nafziger