You cannot obtain a valid trademark right unless you are the first person to register this trademark. A trademark must meet the availability requirement, which means that an identical or similar sign must not have been previously registered by someone else for the same territory and for similar products or services (see the principle of speciality). It is therefore extremely important (!) that you verify before filing whether the sign that you wish to protect has not already been filed or registered as a trademark.
Thanks to new technologies, it is now possible for anyone to carry out this type of research easily in patent office databases.
To search for potential trademarks registered or filed in the Benelux, you can access the online trademark register which is provided free of charge by the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property. You can also request that this office carry out this research for you (for a fee).
The websites of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and the World Intellectual Property Organization also offer online research tools in their registers, via databases of community trademark registrations for the OHIM and international trademark registrations for the WIPO.
Not only can you verify whether a sign has already been filed or registered, you can also see for which products or services this sign was filed. Due to the principle of speciality it is possible for you to register the same sign for totally different products or services (except if it is a well-known trademark).
Experts such as trademark agents also have access to specialised databases; their advice is useful for more complex research (which offers more security).