In the world of federal trademark registration, selecting the right term for your brand or product is crucial. Two common categories that trademarks fall into are suggestive terms and descriptive terms. Understanding suggestive and descriptive terms is crucial to choosing a strong brand name and obtaining trademark registration protection. In this blog post, we discuss the differences between suggestive and descriptive terms in the context of federal trademark registration.
Suggestive terms are a popular choice for trademark registration because they strike a balance between being distinctive and hinting at the nature or characteristics of the product or service they represent. These terms require consumers to use their imagination or think deeper to understand the connection between the trademark and the product or service. Here are some key characteristics of suggestive terms:
a. Evocative: Suggestive terms evoke an idea, feeling, or image related to the product or service, without directly describing it. For example, “Netflix” suggests a fast, efficient service, without explicitly stating that it’s an online streaming platform.
b. Distinctiveness: Suggestive terms are considered inherently distinctive, which means they can be registered as trademarks without demonstrating secondary meaning or acquired distinctiveness.
c. Legal Protection: Trademarks consisting of suggestive terms are usually easier to protect and enforce because they are less likely to be deemed generic or merely descriptive.
d. Examples: Some examples of suggestive trademarks include “Microsoft” for software products, “Coppertone” for sunscreens, and “Roach Motel” for insect traps.
Descriptive terms, on the other hand, directly describe a product, service, or its attributes. These terms lack inherent distinctiveness and typically cannot be registered as trademarks unless they have acquired secondary meaning. Here are key characteristics of descriptive terms:
a. Literal: Descriptive terms convey immediate information about the product, its ingredients, qualities, or characteristics. They leave little to the consumer’s imagination. For example, “Apple” for computers is a descriptive term as it directly relates to the product.
b. Secondary Meaning: To register a descriptive term as a trademark, it must acquire secondary meaning through long-term use and consumer recognition. This means consumers associate the term with a specific source or brand, rather than its generic meaning.
c. Weak Protection: Descriptive terms offer weaker trademark protection compared to suggestive terms. They are more vulnerable to challenges and may not provide as much exclusivity.
d. Examples: Some examples of descriptive trademarks that have acquired secondary meaning include “Holiday Inn” for hotels, “Best Buy” for electronics retail, and “American Airlines” for airline services.
When selecting a term for trademark registration, it’s crucial to consider your brand’s distinctiveness, consumer recognition, and long-term goals. Here are some key takeaways:
In federal trademark registration law, understanding the differences between suggestive and descriptive terms is essential for making informed decisions about your brand’s trademark. While suggestive terms offer stronger protection and immediate registration opportunities, descriptive terms can become powerful trademarks if they acquire secondary meaning through extensive use. Choosing the right term is a critical step in building a strong and protected brand identity.
Contact Alex to discuss the post or to get started on registering your small business trademarks.