Trademark Selection

The most important words in the definition of a trademark are “identifies and distinguishes” — your trademark should identify you or your company as the source of the goods or services, and distinguish those goods or services from those of others. The ability of a trademark to identify and distinguish goods or services varies greatly depending on the strength of the mark, as shown by the following categories:


Made-up words that do not exist in any language:  EXXON (motor fuel), Xerox (copiers) and Frappuccino (beverages) are examples.  Trademarks for prescription drugs are intentionally fanciful:  Zocor, Lipitor and Celebrex are examples.


English words that have no relation to the product or service: Apple (computers), Galaxy (smartphone), and Focus (cars) are examples.


Words which are somewhat related to the product or service, but which do not describe it. Netflix (Internet movies) and Easy-Off (oven cleaner) are examples.


Words which more closely describe a characteristic or quality of the product or service, such as “Pet Vitamin Water”.  Descriptive marks are difficult to protect and can be registered only in very limited circumstances: when they have “acquired distinctiveness”, such as “Ice-Blended” for coffee shakes sold by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Fanciful and arbitrary marks are considered strong and are easier to protect than suggestive or descriptive marks.  However, building brand awareness for the goods or services associated with fanciful or arbitrary marks can require more effort than with marks that are suggestive.  These considerations have to be balanced when selecting a trademark.

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