Strong Trademarks are Distinctive
What is or isn’t a “strong” trademark is depending upon the extent to which a trademark distinctly identifies your business and your specific service or product.
In other words, the extent to which your trademark allows consumers to identify you specifically, as opposed to anyone else producing a similar product or service is the measurement of your mark’s strength.
A trademark that is too generic or merely describes the product or service being marketed is a weak trademark because it doesn’t tell consumers whether YOU produced THIS particular product.
Detroit Trademark Attorney: 5 Categories of Distinctiveness
U.S. courts have generally classified marks into 5 categories of increasing distinctiveness:
A completely generic mark would not receive trademark protection. This is a mark that simply embodies the term of common usage for for the product or service it relates to.
An example would be “water.” Such a mark would not tell the consumers anything about who bottled the water, what its source was, what else may be added to it, or what chemical processes may have been utilized. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not offer any protection to such a mark.
A descriptive mark is a word or phrase of ordinary meaning that simply describes the product or services offered. An example might be “Legal Services” for a law firm. What sort? Provided by whom? Where?
A descriptive mark can receive registration protection if it has acquired a secondary meaning. That is, if the term has been used extensively enough that, despite the fact that it merely describes something, it still identifies a particular product or service from a specific source, it might still pass muster.
A suggestive mark is a word or phrase which requires “… imagination, thought and perception to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the goods.” (Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World, Inc., 537 F.2d 4)
It is short of being directly descriptive of the product or service, in other words.
A suggestive mark is entitled to the protection of trademark registration protection–but it is still not the strongest sort of mark available.
An arbitrary mark is a common word that is employed outside of its everyday usage to convey a connection to a specific product or service with a specific source.
An example would be Pegasus Airlines, the Pegasus being the famous winged horse of Greek mythology. Here, it denotes a low-cost Turkish airline.
Such a mark is eligible for registration and USPTO protection.
A “fanciful” or inherently distinctive mark is presumed to be registrable as it is a created term, or invented word, that has no outside meaning in any context.
There are a host of easy examples, including Kodak, Pepsi, and others.
Detroit Trademark Attorneys: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that, when creating a brand, understanding the 5 categories of strength of registrability is key to creating a trademark that will breeze through the USPTO registration process, likely be unchallenged by opposition of other trademark registrants, and that will distinctly identify your product or service for as long as you need it to, whether that is a few years, a few decades, or longer.
Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting craft brewers, vintners, distillers, and others in all industries with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.
We offer virtual consultations, premium customer service, and the expertise you need to maximize your odds of trademark registration success.