Trademark protection is essential for protecting your brand. Not only does a trademark differentiate your goods for services from those of others, but it also allows you to build goodwill with consumers through the trademark’s association with superior quality products or services. As such, you want to make sure that you pick a trademark that will offer your brand the most protection possible. Not all trademarks are equal; some offer stronger protection than others. An Alabama trademark lawyer can help you select and register a trademark that will deliver the protection your brand needs.
The Spectrum of Trademark Distinctiveness
The strength of a trademark is a function of its ability to properly identify a brand and distinguish that brand from other brands. This is known as trademark “distinctiveness.” The more distinctive the trademark, the more protection it offers. Trademark distinctiveness exists on a spectrum ranging from generic (not distinct at all) to inherently distinctive (the most distinct).
Fanciful marks are the most distinctive types of marks. A fanciful mark is a made-up word or phrase whose only function is to serve as a brand-identifying label (e.g., “Polaroid,” “Pepsi,” “Verizon,” etc.). They are said to be “inherently distinctive” because they are completely unique words and can be immediately identified by consumers as source indicators.
Arbitrary marks are highly distinctive. An arbitrary mark is a word or phrase that has a common meaning that is unrelated to the product or service being offered (e.g., “Camel,” “Tide,” “Apple,” etc.). These types of marks offer very strong protection, but not quite as strong as fanciful marks.
Further down the distinctiveness scale are suggestive marks. A suggestive mark is one that hints at the type of product it covers without explicitly describing it (e.g., “Coppertone,” “Greyhound,” “Microsoft,” e.g.). While suggestive marks are distinctive in their own right, they are not as distinctive as fanciful and arbitrary marks and thus offer less protection.
Descriptive marks describe “an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use” of the goods or services. Some examples of descriptive marks include “General Electric,” “American Airlines,” “Bank of America,” etc. Descriptive marks are not distinctive in themselves. However, they may still be registrable if the applicant can show that the mark has “acquired distinctiveness” — i.e., the mark has developed into a trademark because the public associates the word or phrase with a specific good or service.
Generic marks are words and phrases that refer to the actual name of a product or service. Examples include “computer,” “lawn care,” “sofa,” “beer,” and “flooring.” Generic marks are not distinctive and cannot function as trademarks because they are incapable of identifying a particular brand or service.
So, Which Type of Mark Should You Choose?
Generally, you should choose a fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive mark, as these are the most distinctive and will offer your brand the most protection.
Contact an Alabama Trademark Attorney for More Information
For more information about trademarks and brand protection, please contact an Alabama trademark attorney at AdamsIP by calling 251-289-9787 or by using our online contact form. Our offices are located throughout Alabama, including Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.