How to pick a name or logo

When choosing a name or logo it is important to find a balance between picking a strong/distinctive trademark and one that informs the public about the goods or services you will be offering. While a highly distinctive trademark is afforded a great deal of protection under federal law, the consumer may not know what products you are offering, making it more difficult to acquire new customers. Conversely, a mark that describes the business or goods may help attract new business, but the trademark will be afforded substantially less trademark protection because the courts do not want to prevent competitors from fairly describing their products.

The term “distinctive” is synonymous with strength. Inherently distinctive trademarks (fanciful, arbitrary, and suggestive) are stronger than non-inherently distinctive trademarks (descriptive, geographic, and surname). However, trademarks do not function in a vacuum, and the strength of a mark may change over time. Descriptive trademarks may begin as weak source identifiers but develop into powerful brands through widespread use and increased consumer recognition. For example, “Coca-Cola” was originally a highly descriptive mark because the product contained coca leaves and the beverage offered was a cola, but more than a century of use and billions of dollars in sales established the famous mark we know today.

We typically find that suggestive marks strike the perfect balance of strength and descriptiveness. Suggestive trademarks often involve a clever play on words, requiring a consumer to use some imagination, thought, and perception to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the goods. Suggestive marks are not to be confused with descriptive marks, which convey an immediate idea of the ingredients, qualities or characteristics of the good.  Suggestive marks are not as strong as fanciful or arbitrary marks, but still maintain an inherently distinctive classification and do not require a showing of secondary meaning to receive federal registration.

For a more thorough analysis of trademark strength, see our discussion on trademark distinctiveness.

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