A brand name is a trademark, and like all trademarks, it has to be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That’s right, even if you’ve been using your brand name for years and think everyone knows exactly what it means, that doesn’t mean it’s actually protected under law. In fact, there are some categories of trademark names and trademark register services that are not protectable at all as they don’t meet certain criteria set forth by the USPTO when granting such protection. To show you what these categories look like (and whether or not they’re protectable), we’ll explore them below:
Fanciful or coined marks are made up words. They do not exist in the dictionary, and can be any word, but they must be distinctive. Examples of fanciful marks include Apple, Google and Kodak. While these names may seem like silly ideas for a brand name now, at the time they were created they stood out as unique because there was nothing else out there similar to them. If a brand creates a name that is not in common usage, this is considered to be one of the strongest types of trademark because it creates something entirely different from anything else on the market (or on its way).
Fanciful marks are very easy to protect because they’re not descriptive of your product or service; in fact, there’s little chance anyone could confuse your product with another one if you use an arbitrary name rather than something descriptive like “Computer Repair.” In fact, many companies choose arbitrary names when they want their company name to represent something abstract like “Change” or “Adventure.”
Arbitrary marks are those that have no logical relationship to the products or services with which they are used. These include fanciful words, invented words, and coined words. Arbitrary marks can also refer to descriptive terms that by themselves do not describe a product or service (e.g., “Tropicana”) or suggestive terms that suggest some characteristic of a product or service (e.g., “Happy Hour”). While arbitrary marks do not always enjoy trademark protection because they may be too generic for the public to identify them with one company, many companies still use them as part of their marketing strategy because consumers tend to get confused about whether there is a connection between the mark and the product or service when searching for information online.
Suggestive marks are not directly descriptive of the goods or services, but suggest them. For example, Apple is a suggestive mark for computers; Google is a suggestive mark for search engines; Nike is a suggestive mark for shoes; and Starbucks is a suggestive mark for coffee. In determining whether a word or phrase is descriptive or merely suggests something else, courts will consider how that word or phrase would be understood by an ordinary consumer.
An example of a case involving this issue was one in which an Internet service provider (ISP) named itself “Broadband.” The court found that “broadband” was merely descriptive because consumers would naturally infer that “broadband” referred to high-speed Internet access rather than any other type of transmission capacity.
Descriptive marks are those that describe some characteristic of a product or service. Examples include “Apple” for computers and “Gatorade” for sports drinks. Descriptive marks can be highly useful in marketing because they help consumers identify exactly what they want to buy, but they do not necessarily enjoy trademark protection because they may be too generic for the public to identify them with one companyAnother example is a case in which a company named its product “Meat Snacks.” The court held that this was merely descriptive because consumers would naturally infer that these were simply snacks made from meat rather than any other type of foodDescriptive marks are words or phrases that describe the product or service you offer. They are very easy to protect because they’re already in common usage and won’t cause confusion for your potential customers. A descriptive mark is similar to a trademark in that it must be unique and not confusingly similar to other marks already registered with the USPTO. For example, if your business sells computers, then “Computer Store” would likely be an acceptable name for your brand because it adequately describes what you do—but if another computer store wanted to use the same name, it could create confusion among shoppers who think both stores offer the same products and services at competitive prices…
Descriptive marks are the most common type of trademarks. They don’t have to be unique or original, but they must describe a quality, feature, function, ingredient, purpose or use of your goods/services.
Examples include Adidas (shoes), Kodak (photographic film) and Xerox (photocopiers). The names themselves tell you what the company does – this is their “mark.” It’s not necessary for descriptive marks to be registered with government agencies like the USPTO; registration isn’t necessary for a descriptive mark to be protected under trademark law.
There are different categories of trademark from the USPTO.
A trademark is generally categorized into five categories. These categories are:
- Fanciful – A made up word; it’s not a real word and does not describe the product or service.
Examples: Apple, Chrysler
- Arbitrary – It has no relation to the type of product or service being offered.
Example: Apple, Chrysler
- Suggestive – Hints at the type of product or service being offered.
Example: Apple, Chrysler (Apple hints that they make computers)
Descriptive – Describes the main attributes of the product or service being offered. Example: Apple, Chrysler (Apple is a computer company) Generic – A word that describes every single product or service in your niche.
When you consider the types of trademarks, your brand should be a fanciful mark or an arbitrary one to become eligible for US trademark registration. You can also be descriptive if you want to be descriptive of what your product or service does.