A design search code is a six-digit number that helps the public and examining attorneys search the USPTO database for marks with similar designs. Understanding design search codes will help you conduct a more effective search before you file your application.
Links to additional USPTO webpages featuring information on conducting searches and design coding are at the end of this page.
Why does the USPTO use design search codes?
When examining your trademark application, we must determine whether a consumer is likely to confuse your mark with a registered mark or a mark in a previously filed application. To make that determination, examining attorneys and the public must be able to thoroughly and efficiently search the expansive USPTO database for marks that are similar to yours.
To focus the search, we assign a numerical design search code to each design element of your mark when we receive your application. A design element can be any component of your mark that is not a word, such as a depiction of a star or flower.
If your mark resembles another mark too closely in sound, appearance, or meaning, we will issue you a likelihood-of-confusion refusal.
If a mark contains an image of an elephant, that mark is assigned design search code 03.03.01. Searching for marks with the design code 03.03.01 would retrieve all federal trademark applications and registrations containing images of elephants, even if the mark included other design elements, such as the house in the mark shown below.
You can also search for marks that have been assigned multiple design elements. For example, a search for a mark with both an elephant (03.03.01) and a blanket (09.01.07) would retrieve the following design:
Additional information about design search codes and a complete list of the USPTO design codes are available in the Design Search Code Manual.
How does the USPTO determine which design search codes to assign?
The USPTO tries to assign design search codes for every significant element of your mark. Our major considerations are:
- If you were visually scanning a collection of marks, which features would help you pick out your mark?
- If you were visually scanning a collection of marks, which features would help you pick out a similar mark?
We also consider the description of the mark from your application and other statements you submit. It is important that you accurately and completely describe all design elements of your mark.
After we review your application and assign design search codes (if any), we will send your application to an examining attorney. Your examining attorney may add or delete design search codes if he or she determines that doing it will more accurately account for the all the design elements in your mark.
How will I know which design search codes are assigned to my mark?
If design search codes are assigned to your application, we will issue you a notice that lists the codes. You can access the notice through Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR). In the list of documents, look for “Design Search Code Corr Project.”
What are the next steps?
After receiving your notice, if you would like to suggest that a design search code be added or deleted, email TMDesignCodeComments@uspto.gov. Your email should include your name, your application serial number, a list of the design search codes you would like to add or remove from your file, and a brief justification for your request. The USPTO will only enter design search codes that represent the designs or images in your mark.
We will process your request within two business days. You will not be notified when your request is processed. If we approve your request, the list of design search codes will be updated in TSDR under the “mark information” section of the “status” page.
After your application is sent to an examining attorney, you must work directly with him or her to process any further requests to add or delete search codes.
Get basic information on searching on the USPTO’s Trademark Information Network (TMIN) video number 3 “Searching."
You may search the USPTO database of trademarks free of charge.
A complete list of the USPTO design codes, along with additional information on conducting searches for design elements, can be found in the USPTO Design Search Code Manual.