Get ready to search - classification and design search codes

Searching the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is an important part of doing a thorough clearance search. Because the TESS database has records for millions of trademarks, you need a strategic approach to search effectively. Design search codes and classes can help you target your search, making it easier to find any trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with yours.

This page will help you identify classes and design search codes to use in your TESS search.

  • Classification of your goods and services - find out how the USPTO classifies your goods and services to help you narrow your search to trademarks that are used with related goods and services.
  • Design search codes - if you plan to include a design or logo in your trademark or use any words that could be represented by an image, design search codes allow you to search for trademarks with similar design elements.

Develop an effective search                              

An effective search is:

  • Broad enough to find all the trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with yours
  • Narrow enough to limit the results you must evaluate to a manageable number of trademarks

If you receive an unmanageably large number of results, you can narrow your search to only the trademarks that are most relevant. A number of tools can help you narrow your search. This page will help you learn to use some of these tools.

Narrow your search conservatively

Narrow your search just enough to limit your results to a number that you can reasonably evaluate. The more you narrow your search, the greater your odds of missing a conflicting trademark in your clearance search.

Being conservative when narrowing your search is crucial. When we examine your application, we will look for trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with your trademark. If we find any, we will not register your trademark, and we can’t refund your filing fee.

Classification – find trademarks used on goods and services related to yours

Classification is similar to the departments in a store. Stores categorize merchandise into departments to help you find the products you are looking for, like women’s clothing, household appliances, or bed linen. Similarly, classification is a way to categorize goods and services to help you search TESS for goods and services that are similar or related to yours.

There are 45 classes, or categories, that cover all goods and services. Classes 1-34 are for goods, classes 35-45 are for services. Each class can cover a wide range of goods or services. For example, class 25 covers clothing and class 36 covers all insurance and financial services.


Design search codes – find trademarks that appear similar to yours

A design search code is a six-digit number that is used to classify and search for the prominent design elements in a trademark. A design element can be any component of the trademark that is not a word, such as a depiction of a bird, a star, or a flower. 


Example of a design search code. 03.15.01 is for eagles.


If your trademark has design elements, identify the design search code for each prominent element before you start your TESS search. If words in your trademark could be represented by an image with the same meaning, such as “dog,” “cherry,” or “moon,” you should identify the design search codes for those elements also.