We have all heard about trademarks, but what are they, and more importantly, what is a great one?Unlike GEICO, not everyone has the ability to market their products or services with a cute Gecko, a Caveman, and the like.
Trademarks are source identifiers for goods and services (Service marks).Trademarks allow consumers to differentiate between two similar looking or functioning products.Trademarks are generally comprised of two parts: (1) The tradename; and (2) the good or service associated with the tradename.To create a protectable trademark, the good or service needs to be sold/rendered in interstate commerce, meaning that you need to be selling or rendering the service in more than one state.A company using a name in only one state can protect itself by filing for a state trademark.Each state maintains its own, state-specific trademark register.
While people commonly think of words and names as trademarks, the subject matter of trademarks is quite broad.For example, logos, jingles, catch-phrases, and even colors can be trademarked.
While the subject matter of trademark is quite broad, each of these broad categories has exceptions.Again, as with all legal questions, It Depends...
You cannot obtain a trademark registration on a generic or merely descriptive term.For example, if your company produces ballpoint pens, it would be counterproductive for you to adopt the name The Best Ballpoint Pen for your product.Why?Because the name you’ve chosen merely describes the product.To be sure, the purpose of a trademark is to help consumers differentiate between two or more products that may be sitting next to one another on the shelf of a store (online or physical). A consumer can’t differentiate many types between ballpoint pens if each has a generic or descriptive name.You want your product to stand out, and rightly so.You didn’t produce the Best Ballpoint Pen, only to have it drown in a sea of other mediocre pens.
When considering what to name your new product or service, consider using what is referred to as a fanciful or arbitrary name.For example, Google has nothing to do with search engines, Kleenex has nothing to do with bathroom tissues, and so on.These names have high levels of trademark protection because they are not describing the underlying goods or services. In the world of trademark, there is a hierarchy of protectability.Those having the most protectability are arbitrary; those with little to no protectability are descriptive.This is the constant battle with every marketing department on the planet.Marketers, God bless their souls, love to have a simple message that can be pushed to the masses.It takes time and effort to build customer visibility for brand a name that does not convey much information about a product or service.However, taking the time to build a trademark for your most essential products and services will pay off in the long-run. Take the time to develop a strong brand.It’s certainly not so easy that a caveman could do it, but it’s worth your time and effort.Your products deserve a strong trademark.
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