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Is there any way I can 'gaurantee' that this domain is OK to purchase?
Are there any trusted 3rd party companies that deal with things like this that won't go and buy the domain behind my back (i highly doubt they would but just in case)?
Of course, if the domain you are after comes up on a "ping" by one of the search companies don't be surprised if you are ratted out, absent a confidentiality agreement. One never knows who the company's clients are.
The poor man's version of a trademark search?
Search Google/Yahoo/MSN for "hits". Search the USPTO using their search system. Add two measures of common sense. i.e., how generic is the domain/word/phrase? Do a little reading on trademark, for instance, how there can be multiple uses of certain trademarked words or phrases, that some trademarks are for the logo/image only - not the phrase or word itself, etc. Hold your breath. Get a law degree. That pretty much does it for the poor man. ;) (P.S. to the WW mob: Did I forget any steps in the poor man's trademark search?)
Our official line in this forum: If it's legal and of significance, or could be, then talk to a lawyer who specializes in the subject matter. The "poor man's version" is more than likely reality in most cases, so do your own research well. However, the more that is at stake the more foolish it is to not seek out professional advice.
You can pay online services to search for yourself, using their databases of TM information. Your searching should include "sound-alike", i.e. if you want to buy Kokakola.com and you never heard of Coca-cola. But even such a search may not flag a Kokacool.com or colakooka.com compared against CocaCola. There are thousands and thousands of registered, active US trademarks that no one has heard of.
USPTO is one source, so is WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). If you see a TM exists in, say, Germany, and you are in USA, then you should be prepared to pay to file in USPTO to register in at least one class (there are over 40 classes), in order to protect yourself.
But you could conflict with 2 or more TM's... e.g. CocaPepsi.com. This could also be hard to search for, if your name is 2 or 3 words put together.
And if you conflict with a company's trade name, but they have not filed a TM, they still have rights. As would you, once you put your name online.
There is probably 0% guarantee before you take any action, because you have no protection at that time, and because it is all a matter of perception. A lawyer could file against you - or write you a cease-and-desist letter - if you have widgetyworld.com and their client has a trademark for "Vidget & World".
A lot depends on how each side views their goals, resources, and strategy. If you are building a business brand for yourself, then you will find there are no easy answers, but plenty of practical steps to take with regard to your trade name.