After 23 years, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is retiring its trademark electronic search system. Or, in government speak, the USPTO is retiring TESS. Supposedly, the retirement is not voluntary. TESS relies on a backend system and programming language that will no longer be supported.

I don’t know about the backend and programming language, but the user interface has barely changed since its launch. Here’s what TESS looked like in 2001 when I graduated from law school:

Here’s what TESS looks like today:

So, like Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel, TESS is being replaced by a more modern search tool. Perhaps TESS will be converted into a boiler for the USPTO’s heating system.

A beta version of the new, cloud-based search system is now available on the USPTO’s website. According to the USPTO, the “new system provides users with a stronger industry-standard search syntax and offers both a simplified, basic search interface as well as a more advanced search interface for more complex searching.” No word yet on what acronym the USPTO will bestow on the new system (TMGPT? TMAI? TMNFT?).

The USPTO will host live virtual demos and training webinars on the new system throughout the Fall. I plan to take advantage of these opportunities since this new system could be in place for the next 23 years if history is any indication. That said, we don’t rely on USPTO searches at Trust Tree. USPTO searches are useful for finding exact hits, but the likelihood of confusion analysis is much broader than exact hits. To find potential conflicts, we use an algorithm that uncovers all similar marks, not just identical ones. This saves time and money, leading to better outcomes for our clients.