QUESTION: I recently opened a new business and today I received an email from someone through my webpage indicating I have infringed on their trademark and I need to cease and desist. If I infringed, I don't mind changing the name slightly, but I guess I have two questions. 1) Have I actually infringed? And 2) If I have, how different does my name need to be to not infringe?
ANSWER: Trademark infringement can be based on federal trademarks, state trademarks, and unregistered common law trademarks. To check to see if you may be infringing, you would need to check federal, state and common law trademarks. Checking can be started by doing a Google search. A check of federal trademarks can be done by going to the US trademark office website - https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database. State searches can be more challenging since the search needs to be done on a state-by-state basis.
There are third party vendors who can conduct searches for you. They can be found by a Google search.
Whether there is infringement requires consideration of a number of legal factors. However, infringement can exist for similar looking or similar sounding words. Exact identity is not required for infringement.