The answer is: “It depends.” Like most simplified questions asked to lawyers, the answer to this depends on your individual situation. If simple questions had simple answers, software would be written to replace lawyers, in which case I’d be out of a job but not out of my obligation to pay for law school. Ouch.
Professional trademark searches can be valuable when you need to know whether your proposed trademark will likely be granted trademark registration by the USPTO; and when you need to know quickly and with some degree of certainty. Basically, if you are about to invest a relatively significant amount of resources into a brand without having a trademark registration, I would recommend first investing in a full professional search report.
This situation commonly arises when a company develops an idea for a brand or company name, and is ready to move quickly with branding and marketing. While a trademark registration typically takes 6-9 months to clear, at best, marketing can be ready much sooner than that. The dangers of moving ahead without a finalized trademark registration can be any of the following, plus more:
- possibly infringing upon someone else’s trademark, and being liable in court for the infringement.
- spending significant amounts of time on marketing efforts, and then finding out you infringed on another trademark
- spending significant amounts of money on web development, stationary, and advertisements, and then ultimately failing to secure a trademark registration
- choosing a brand or company name, and not being able to secure key domain names
- investing many resources into the new brand or company name, encountering any of the problems above, and then having to spend more resources on rebranding