How Strong is My Company Name as a Trademark?

If you ultimately want your company name and logo to be federally registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you should be informed of the different levels of strength for trademarks. While you may have a registered trademark, it may be of a weaker value and stands to lose its registration if a competitor opposes your registration. Oppositely, while you may have been initially denied a trademark registration, you may be a small effort away from elevating your proposed logo or name into a mark the USPTO will register.

To be brief, here is a range of trademark strength:

Generic (no registration): These terms describe the industry in which the company operates, and are not registrable because these words must be saved for all companies in that industry to use. (“Apple” for an apple company, “Cars” for a car company)

Descriptive (registration if “secondary meaning”): These terms merely describe a company or its products, and may only be registered if the USPTO determines that the proposed mark has a meaning other than just being descriptive. (“Fast Cars” for a car company probably has no secondary meaning, while “TurboTax” for a tax software company does have secondary meaning)

Suggestive (registrable): Words that suggest certain qualities of a company or its products are considered suggestive trademarks. (“Jaguar” for a company that sells fast cars, “Allure” for a fashion magazine)

Arbitrary (registrable): Previously existing words that are used in an arbitrary manner are strong marks, and are registrable (“Apple” for a computer company, “Grey Goose” for vodka – there is no connection between the word and the company’s business)

Fanciful (registrable): Words that are completely made up are considered fanciful. These are the strongest types of marks because there is little to no risk that any other company has previously used the made up word in a commercial sense. (“Zynga” for online-based games, “Lululemon” for a clothing company)

 

– ck

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