What is a Trademark?
A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Throughout this booklet, the terms “trademark” and “mark” refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Legally Strong Trademarks – Fanciful, Arbitrary, and Suggestive Marks
Trademarks should not directly describe your goods or services or be the generic name of the goods of services. Trademarks need to be distinctive to be entitled to legal protection. Fanciful, arbitrary, and suggestive trademark are entitled to protection and registration. So what do these terms mean?
Fanciful marks comprise terms that have been invented for the sole purpose of functioning as a trademark or service mark. Such marks comprise words that are either unknown in the language (e.g., PEPSI, KODAK, and EXXON). These marks are entitled to a broad scope of protection across a broad spectrum of goods and services.
Arbitrary marks comprise words that are in common linguistic use but, when used to identify particular goods or services, do not suggest or describe a significant ingredient, quality, or characteristic of the goods or services. An arbitrary mark is a known word used in an unexpected or uncommon way. Some examples of famous abitrary marks are APPLE for computers and OLD CROW for whiskey. These marks are entitled to a broad scope of protection across a broad spectrum of goods and services.
Suggestive marks are those that, when applied to the goods or services at issue, require imagination, thought, or perception to reach a conclusion as to the nature of those goods or services. Thus, a suggestive term differs from a descriptive term, which immediately tells something about the goods or services. Suggestive marks, like fanciful and arbitrary marks, are registrable on the Principal Register without proof of secondary meaning. Some examples of suggestive marks are NOBURST for liquid antifreeze (suggesting a desired result of using the product rather than immediately informing the purchasing public of a characteristic, feature, function, or attribute); RABBIT REPRODUCTION SERVICES for copy services (suggesting they provide fast service).
Merely Descriptive and Generic Terms
A generic term is the common name of goods or services and can never be entitled to trademark protection.
Merely descriptive marks describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use of the specified goods or services. Similarly, a mark is considered merely descriptive if it immediately conveys knowledge of a quality, feature, function, or characteristic of an applicant’s goods or services.
Some examples of proposed trademarks that were help to be merely descriptive are APPLE PIE for potpourri, BED & BREAKFAST REGISTRY for lodging reservations services, and COASTER-CARDS for a coaster suitable for direct mailing.
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