What’s In a Name? – Part 2   Leave a comment



The original version of General Electric's cir...

The original version of General Electric’s circular logo and trademark. The trademark application was filed on July 24, 1899, and registered on September 18, 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            In our previous post in this series, we discussed the downside, in terms of trademark protection, of choosing generic or descriptive company or product names.  On the opposite end of the spectrum are names or logos that have no logical association whatsoever with your products or services.  These are called “arbitrary” (when it has a common meaning unrelated to the goods or services it describes) or “fanciful” (when the mark is completely made up) marks and receive the strongest trademark protection.  Trademarks that fall into these categories include “APPLE” for computers (because what does an apple have to do with computers?) and “Kodak” for cameras, film and related accessories.  Although arbitrary or fanciful marks are great in terms of trademark protection, though, they are not always the most practical choice when you are trying to market a new business with limited resources and you want people to quickly form an association between your company and your goods or services.

             The solution?  A name that, although it does not directly describe your goods or services, “suggests” a characteristic or quality of the goods or services your company provides.  Courts often state that suggestive marks require some form of “leap in thought” for the consumer to identify the relevant goods or services.  Our resident trademark expert, Kathleen Hart, puts it this way: “I tend to think of suggestive marks are names that, when not tied to a particular good or service, make the consumer wonder what the mark identifies, but creates an ‘aha’ moment once the consumer knows what goods and services are represented by the mark.”  In other words, the goods and services aren’t immediately obvious, but the connotations of the mark “make sense” once you know the goods and services.  Examples of suggestive marks include “JAGUAR” and “MUSTANG,” each of which are used to identify automobiles.

             From a marketing perspective, a suggestive mark is better than an arbitrary or fanciful trademark because it facilitates an easier association between the good or service and the company name.  From a legal perspective, a suggestive mark is preferable to a descriptive mark, but keep in mind that the line between what is suggestive and what is descriptive is somewhat subjective and, therefore, not entirely clear.  The “best” trademark from a legal perspective will always be an arbitrary or fanciful mark, but when that is not a practical choice (or you just can’t think of one), a strong, almost-arbitrary suggestive mark is your best bet.  Our trademark attorneys can assist you in this endeavor by providing their thoughts on the relative trademark strengths of potential names.

             In our next (and final) post in this series, we’ll discuss the need for doing at least a basic name search for infringing marks, as well as the pros and cons of federal trademark registration.  Stay tuned.

Do you want to use this blog article?

You may, as long as you include this complete bio with it:

 Kathleen Hart is a Georgia attorney, focusing her practice in corporate law, including intellectual property and franchise matters. 

 Her firm, Andersen, Tate & Carr, P.C., works with all manner of clients in business and personal matters, providing “big firm” sophistication with suburban law firm attention and service.

Website: www.atclawfirm.com

Blog: www.andersentatecarr.wordpress.com

 Copyright © 2012, Kathleen Hart & Andersen, Tate & Carr, P.C.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: