Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” Well, to a business owner trying to select a trademark, it means a lot. It’s a very important decision because the chosen word, design, symbol, or phrase (that identifies the source of a company’s products or services) can be one of the most valuable assets that your company will own. Choosing wisely can help you distinguish yourselves from the competition; making a poor choice can trigger costly legal disputes. Find out what you need to know about how to pick a good trademark.
Pick a Trademark That can be Registered
If you can’t register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you really shouldn’t bother with it because there’s no point. There are many benefits to registration, including protection and reassurances of ownership and ability to enforce your rights against other companies.
Typically, the stronger or more distinctive the mark, the more likely it is to register it and protect it from use from others. The following categories will help determine the ease of registering your mark.
· Generic: These are words that are already accepted and recognized descriptions of a certain type of services or goods. These aren’t eligible for trademark protection. Example: “Ivory” used to describe a product made with elephant tusks.
· Descriptive: This mark describes goods, or some quality tied to the goods. However, these words aren’t eligible for trademarks, unless they achieve a secondary meaning, which means that the word becomes exclusively associated with a specific company. Example: “Holiday Inn.”
· Suggestive: This includes words that suggest a meaning or connection to the product but doesn’t describe it; they are automatically eligible for trademark protection. Example: “Chicken of the Sea” for tuna and “Coppertone” for sunscreen.
· Arbitrary: This includes words that offer no meaning or clue to the product or service. A common word applied in an unfamiliar way. Example: “Urban Decay” for cosmetics.
· Fanciful: These are made up words that aren’t related to the product or service. Example: “Klorax.”
Based on this list, you will want to avoid generic words (because they can’t be protected) and descriptive (because they have to be accompanied with secondary meaning to be protected). Instead, you want to choose fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive words for your trademark.
Conduct a Trademark Search
A complete trademark search will help to ensure that you don’t pick something that can be confused with an already registered trademark. You want to avoid this because it creates a “likelihood of confusion.” If you pick a mark too similar to one already in existence, then your mark can’t be registered.
Speak with a Lawyer about Trademarks
Picking your trademark and registering it seems like an easy task. However, it’s not always so simple. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate the strength of your mark and can identify any potential problems. You can talk to a skilled Mowk Law attorney who can provide insight into all intellectual property matters. Contact us today for assistance.