One of the most important and valuable assets a business can own is a trademark. A strong trademark will make a business stand apart from others in the same industry. On the other hand, a poorly chosen trademark could lead to costly legal problems and difficulties when trying to market your brand. If you follow the tips below, you’ll have the basic knowledge and understanding of what makes a good trademark.
There are many benefits to registering a trademark, such as making it easier to protect and enforce your rights against people who try to use your brand as if it were their own. To learn more about the benefits of registering a trademark, read Why Register Trademarks?
When thinking about what makes a good trademark, it’s important to think about how strong or unique the mark is. In general, it is easier to register and protect a mark that is stronger or more distinctive. As you’ll see below, there are some kinds of words that are hard to remember and should be avoided. Trademarks can be put into the following groups based on how strong or unique they are, from strongest to weakest:
a. Fanciful Marks are made-up words that have nothing to do with the associated goods or services (e.g., EXXON for petroleum products).
b. Arbitrary Marks are words that have nothing to do with the goods or services they relate to (e.g., APPLE for computers).
c. Suggestive Marks are words that may imply the meaning or relationship but they don’t directly describe the goods or services (e.g., COPPERTONE for suntan lotion).
d. Descriptive Marks are made up of words that clearly explain what the goods or services are or that describe a characteristic or feature of the goods or services. It is often hard to enforce trademark rights for descriptive marks unless the mark has become well-known by consumers over time or has gained a meaning other than the obvious (e.g., SHOELAND for a shoe store).
e. Generic Terms are words that are used to describe a group of goods or services (e.g., computer software, facial tissue).
When creating your trademark, choose words that are unique and unrelated to your industry because a strong mark is crucial for customers to differentiate your business from others. For example, “LION” for computers or a made-up word like “ZIPPY” for blankets. These words are easy to remember and will help your customers remember the name of your business. They are also easier to protect and enforce.
The goal is to choose a trademark that is as unique and memorable as possible. To do this, avoid words that are too general or too descriptive. When choosing a trademark, don’t use words that describe the kind of goods or services you sell or how good they are. For example, the mark “Hot Food” cannot be registered for use with food or beverages because it describes the product itself. If it were registered, no one would be able to use the words “hot” and “food” to describe their meal. Acronyms or abbreviations for phrases common to an industry or that are descriptive are also best to avoid.
Another option to avoid is the use of a name. In most cases, you can’t register a last name as a trademark. For example, the name Wilson is a surname, so the mark Wilson Power Boats is not a good choice for a trademark (not to mention the rest of the mark is descriptive and non-registerable as well).
A further matter to consider when choosing your brand name is that there can be no chance of consumer confusion between marks as it relates to who produces the goods or services sold under the brand. A trademark can’t be registered if it too closely resembles an already-registered trademark. When there is a chance that people will get confused, there may also be trademark infringement. For example, the mark Tiger-PJs can’t be registered if the mark Tiger PJ has already been registered for a similar type of product or service.
IBM and ATT are both well-known trademarks because their owners have invested tens of millions of dollars to make them easily recognizable. In their case, even bad trademarks can become well-known if enough money is spent on it. But generally speaking, acronyms are hard to remember by their very nature and should be avoided unless you have an endless advertising budget. On the other hand, it’s easy to remember colorful words. For instance, Phoenix Network Solutions is easier to remember than LBS Network Solutions. Also, numbers are hard to remember, so don’t use them in your trademark either.
Our attorneys and team in Fort Lauderdale can help you choose a strong mark. Call our office at (954) 903-1966 if you want to learn more about how to choose a strong trademark.