Fanciful, Arbitrary, and Suggestive Trademarks

FANCIFUL, ARBITRARY, AND SUGGESTIVE TRADEMARKS

When creating a business, product, or service choosing a name is a very important decision. You must considering not just the marketing impact of the name but also the potential legal impact. While trademarks that describe the goods or services can help from a marketing perspective, from a legal perspective the best trademarks are those that have no relation to the goods or services at issue. Even better, the strongest possible trademark is a word that does not even currently exist which was the case with Exxon and Kodak.

Choosing a Distinctive Trademark

Before spending time and money to promote a new product or service, it is important to distinguish between a “weak” trademark and a “strong” trademark. Not knowing the difference could hurt you in the long run because the weaker the trademark, the less legal protection will be available to you and the more likely you are to run into infringement issues. So, what exactly is a strong trademark?

A strong trademark fits into one of the following three categories for its distinctiveness. Basically, the more unique the term is the less likely it will be in use by another company. Moreover, the more unique your trademark is, the more you will be able to prevent infringing uses.

Fanciful – Words that have been invented solely for use as a trademark are potentially the strongest trademarks because they are inherently distinct and therefore easier to protect under trademark law. For example, Kodak, Pepsi, Exxon and Polaroid are completely made up words with no other meaning outside of the companies that created them.

Arbitrary – Common words that already exist can become strong trademarks when applied to a product or service that is unrelated to the word. For example, while Apple is a very common work, naming a computer company “Apple” is arbitrary because it does not describe a characteristic or quality of the products or services, and therefore, the name is a unique use of the word and distinct among competitors.

Suggestive – Words that suggest a characteristic or quality of a business or product but don’t describe it without some imagination or mental pause can also be strong trademarks. These trademarks rely on the consumers’ imagination to connect the meaning of the word with the business or product. For example, by naming a car company after a fast, elegant animal, such as a Jaguar, the company is suggesting that their products resemble the best qualities of their namesake. So, provided there are not similar uses in the marketplace, the name Jaguar can become a strong trademark for use in relation to the sale of automobiles.

Securing Trademark Protection

Whether you are searching for a strong trademark for your company, product or service, or need legal assistance to protect your existing trademark, it is strongly suggested that you consult with a trademark attorney as early as possible to avoid unnecessary problems down the road.

Please feel free to contact us should you need assistance.

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