Trademarks typically fall into one of five categories. These categories are based on the uniqueness of the trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) affords different levels of protection to trademarks depending on the category. This post discusses those categories and how the USPTO treats them.
Arbitrary trademarks are words or symbols that have no direct connection to the products or services they represent. These marks are highly distinctive and often receive strong legal protection from the USPTO. Examples include “Apple” for computers and “Camel” for cigarettes.
Coined marks are made up words for use as brand identifiers. These words have no existing meaning before their adoption and are viewed by the USPTO as distinctive and unique. Examples include “Kodak” for photography equipment and “Xerox” for photocopying machines.
Suggestive trademarks suggest quality of the products or services without directly describing them. These marks do not describe the goods or services directly. These marks require some imagination or mental effort to understand their connection. Suggestive marks are considered moderately distinctive and generally receive protection from the USPTO. An example is “Netflix” for online streaming services.
Descriptive trademarks directly describe a characteristic, quality, or feature of the products or services they represent. These marks provide a clear indication of the nature of the goods or services but lack inherent distinctiveness. These marks generally receive little to no protection from the USPTO. “Sports Illustrated” is an example of a descriptive mark.
Generic terms are common, everyday words that describe the general category or class of products or services. These words are not eligible to be registered as trademarks because they lack any quality of uniqueness. For example, “laptop” cannot be trademarked for computers as it is a generic term.
Understanding the categories of trademarks and the levels of protection each receives is integral to developing unique trademarks. Contact Me to discuss the post or to get started on developing a trademark strategy.
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