The strength of your trademark has a major impact on your brand and brand strategy. A strong trademark gives you better and broader brand protection and adds more value to your brand overall, compared to “weak” trademarks. When trying to create a strong trademark, it is important to understand the hierarchy of trademarks.
The hierarchy of trademarks, in order of weakest to strongest:
Generic: Generic “trademarks” are a commonly used word or phrase for the goods or services being sold. A good example of this is the trademark “chips” if we’re selling potato chips. Generic trademarks aren’t really considered “trademarks” at all — they’re just words and are not inherently distinctive. Generic trademarks are the weakest of them all.
Descriptive: Descriptive trademarks describe an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use of the goods or services. For example, “Cold and Creamy” would be descriptive if used with the sale of ice cream. Descriptive trademarks are very weak and are not inherently distinctive, though they can acquire distinctiveness and essentially become stronger if there is a secondary meaning. Secondary meaning usually arises when a mark has been used in commerce for a significant amount of time.
Suggestive: Suggestive trademarks hint at the nature or some aspect of the goods or services, but don’t actually describe them (like a descriptive mark). An example of this would be “Microsoft” — it is suggestive of “software” for “microcomputers.” Suggestive trademarks qualify for trademark protection because they are inherently distinctive, unlike generic and descriptive marks.
Arbitrary: Arbitrary trademarks have an ordinary meaning that is not related to the goods and services being sold. A well known arbitrary mark is “Apple” for computers. “Apple” is a normal word with a common meaning, but that meaning has nothing to do with computers.
Fanciful: Fanciful trademarks are the strongest of all the marks. They are brand new words that have no previous meaning. The popular fanciful marks are Kodak and Nike. These words had no meaning until these brands developed them.
Though fanciful and arbitrary marks are more likely to be protected, they come with drawbacks. Find out what those drawbacks are and how to get a strong trademark on this week’s episode of All Up In Your Business. And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more All Up In Yo’ Business!
Contact us today if you need help with trademarking your brand.
Want more information on trademarks? Check out: Common Trademark Application Mistakes to Avoid.