A trademark is a word, logo, sound, shape, color or any combination that distinguishes the goods or services of one party from another. The development of a strong trademark is a valuable business asset that promotes customer goodwill, increases customer satisfaction and improves sales.
The validity of a trademark is not established by the registration of the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but by the strength of the trademark and its use in commerce. A strong trademark provides immediate protection of the mark upon its first use in commerce because these marks are presumed to be distinctive.
The strongest types of trademarks are “fanciful” trademarks, such as Kodak, Verizon, Xerox and Oreo, which often had no meaning prior their creation. These marks do not suggest or describe the identity of the product or service, and they are immediately protected once they are used in commerce.
“Arbitrary” trademarks include words that are unrelated to the class of the product or service that is being marketed, such Apple computers. These marks provide immediate protection upon the first use of the mark in commerce regardless of registration.
“Suggestive” trademarks suggest an attribute of the product without being an outright description. Greyhound for a bus line, Coppertone for suntan lotion and Roach Motel for cockroach traps are suggestive trademarks. Suggestive marks are also immediately valid and protectable once the mark is first used in commerce.
The weakest trademarks are “descriptive” and “generic” marks. Descriptive trademarks simply identify a product’s attributes, such as Computerland. These types of marks are not provided immediate protection and cannot be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office because these marks are not inherently distinctive. To merit protection, descriptive marks must acquire a secondary meaning, which means that, in the eyes of the public, the primary significance of the trademark is to identify the source of the product rather than the identification of the product itself. For example, both Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chap-stick were denied initial registration because these marks are merely descriptive; “Kentucky” is a geographical region and “fried” merely describes how the chicken is prepared.
“Generic” trademarks merely describe the product class, such as toothpaste, chocolate and bread, and cannot be protected.
Therefore, we encourage you to create a strong trademark, such as a fanciful, arbitrary or suggestive mark, which provides immediate protection for your product or service upon its first use in commerce. We highly suggest that you avoid creating a descriptive or generic trademark.