In another blog post, we mentioned that the best time to think about trademark protection is right from the beginning — that is, before you commit to a brand name and spend money marketing it. At this brand development phase, it’s critical to consider the distinctiveness of your brand name to ensure it is a trademark that can be registered and protected. Here are four tips to help you choose a good trademark.
Use made-up or invented words
These are words that don’t exist in the English language or any language at all. Because they’re completely invented words, it is unlikely that anyone else would be using that word and no competitor would have a need to use that word thereby making them immediately protectable.
Consider some famous brands that have made-up words in their names like ADIDAS, where it’s a combination of the initials of the founders of ADIDAS or words like SKYPE, which means sky peer to peer. Another classic example is KODAK. George Eastman, who created the KODAK trademark, said that a good trademark should be meaningless, short, easily spelled, and vigorous.
Choose unrelated words
Another approach to selecting a brand is to choose words that are completely unrelated to your business. Consider APPLE for computers or MONGOOSE for bicycles. Neither of these words conveys anything to do with the products with which they are associated with, but both are memorable, instantly recognizable, and importantly, protectable brands. Bear in mind, however, that registering a trademark containing commonly used words would not enable you to stop others from using those words to describe other goods or services.
Be careful with using names
We generally advise against using your personal name, whether it’s your first name or surname, in your branding because it usually cannot be registered as trademarks. And even if you’re able to successfully register your name, issues can still arise when trying to enforce them. For example, the KYLIE v. KYLIE trademark battle.
While there is no prohibition against it, a name only qualifies as a trademark if it has already been associated with the business through advertising and has acquired a secondary meaning. Names are treated this way because, theoretically, everyone should be able to use his or her own name to promote their own business or product. However, as soon as someone establishes secondary meaning for a name, it becomes off-limits for all uses that might cause consumer confusion. Del Monte, Disney, Spiegel, and Johnson & Johnson are just a few of the hundreds of surnames that have become effective marks over time.
Avoid descriptive and generic words
The goal is to select a trademark that is as unique and distinctive as possible. Therefore, where your trademark does nothing more than describe your products, it may be difficult to register. Descriptive words may be statements about the quality of the products like FRESH DONUTS, their location or geographic origin like LOS ANGELES LAWYERS, or just generic terms used for those products like CLOCK for timekeeping devices.
Here’s the bottom line. Even if you do come up with something that sounds good, catchy, clear, and works well on the Internet, if you can’t protect it, you may run into problems in the future.
Following the guidelines we shared above will help you come up with a brand that is both marketable and protectable. If you need help registering your trademark, get in touch today. Our team can help ensure your trademark application runs smoothly!