Ensure Your Trademark’s Strength: Fanciful, Arbitrary, Suggestive, or Descriptive?

In the dynamic field of intellectual property, one critical question often overlooked is the strength of the trademark you’re contemplating. The basis on which trademark registration is granted depends significantly on the mark’s relation to the associated goods and services. Maximizing trademark protection involves selecting a mark as unrelated as possible to your business offerings.

Understanding Trademark Strength

There are four categories of word marks, each influencing the strength of your trademark:

Is your trademark fanciful?

1) Fanciful – The Pinnacle of Strength:
  • These are the strongest trademarks, with no connection to the business’s goods or services.
  • Examples include Kodak, Polaroid, Kleenex, and Google – unique, made-up words unrelated to their respective industries.
2) Arbitrary – Strong Yet Existing Words:
  • Marks with no apparent connection to the product, but the words already exist.
  • Examples like “Apple” for computers or “All” for laundry detergent showcase the strength of arbitrary marks.
3) Suggestive – Implying Without Direct Connection:
  • Marks that suggest something about the product without an obvious link.
  • Examples include Frigidaire, iPad, and Xerox, offering a subtle connection without being overly explicit.
4) Descriptive – Weak, Requires “Secondary Meaning”:
  • Marks directly describing the product, needing additional proof of public association with the owner.
  • While weak, some, like the iconic M&M’s slogan, gain protection after establishing a unique association.

The Pitfall of Generic Terms

Trademark applications face rejection if the words are generic, directly equivalent to the goods or services. Generic terms, whether real or made-up, can never be registered, lacking the ability to distinguish the source.

Crafting a Trademark for Impact

Remember, trademarks communicate the source of goods and services to the public. Generic terms fail to convey this crucial information. Whether selecting a real word like “Apple” or a made-up term like “Girlgear,” strategic trademark development is key to shaping your business’s image.

The Evolution of Trademarks

Interestingly, some trademarks evolve into generic words over time. Examples like Aspirin, Cellophane, and Escalator began as trademarks but became integral parts of everyday language.

In conclusion, understanding the strength of your trademark is pivotal for effective brand protection and recognition. Choose wisely to secure your business’s unique identity in the competitive market.


Verna Law, P.C. Trademark Law FAQ