Trademarks are powerful tools that protect a brand’s identity and distinguish it from its competitors – but not all trademarks are created equal.
To pass muster and gain legal protections, a trademark must adhere to certain rules and criteria set forth by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The best trademarks are fanciful or arbitrary
One of the most important requirements for a trademark to be acceptable is its distinctiveness. The best trademarks are unique and easily distinguishable from other marks in the industry (or related industries).
Fanciful trademarks are basically invented words that have no particular meaning except to identify a brand. For example, Pepsi, Xerox, Clorix, Adidas and Exxon are all truly unique words, and they exist only to identify their brands.
Arbitrary trademarks, in comparison, are words that already exist in the dictionary but without association with the products or services they represent. “Dove” has nothing to do with birds, but it is arbitrary enough to make it unique as a trademark for a line of personal care products, in the same way that “Amazon” is an arbitrary term for an online marketplace.
Suggestive trademarks are the next best choice
A suggestive trademark hints at the nature of the goods or services being offered, but they stop short of merely describing them. For example, “Netflix” suggests that you can order movies (“flicks”) online, and “Jaguar” suggests a vehicle that can move at great speeds.
It’s important to note that words that are merely descriptive are usually not capable of being granted trademark protection. For example, “Apple” wouldn’t be an acceptable trademark for a brand of apples – no matter how unusual – but it’s fine as an arbitrary trademark for a line of electronics.
Obtaining a trademark for your brand is an essential part of good business practices in the modern world – but it’s not something that you should attempt on your own. There are a lot of nuances that need to be considered, and you’ll achieve your goals best with the help of experienced legal guidance.