Selecting Good Trademarks

The trademark you select identifies the source of your product or service and distinguishes it from the goods of other companies. A trademark serves as a guarantee of the consistency of your product and represents the goodwill of your company. Below are some general considerations when choosing a suitable and legally allowed trademark.

Characteristics of a Strong Trademark
A trademark should be memorable; should attract the eye, ear and mind of the potential purchaser; should elicit desirable consumer responses; and otherwise be distinctive.

Coined, arbitrary, and suggestive words or terms make strong trademark candidates, clearly distinguishing the products they represent from competitors' products.

Coined Words: ZUBAZ� is a Coined trademark for clothing. A coined mark is a word without a dictionary meaning, which was invented for the sole purpose of functioning as a trademark. Savvy marketers construct marks from parts of other words connoting positive emotion, like ACURA� from accurate. Original, coined trademarks create a distinct identity protectable in both competitive and noncompetitive industries.

Arbitrary Marks: APPLE is Arbitrary as applied to computer equipment. An arbitrary trademark is a word that has a common meaning, but is used as a trademark for a product that has no relationship to this common meaning. A descriptive or generic trademark in one industry can be very distinctive when used in another forum. Consider the word COMPUTER used as a trademark for a line of clothing.

Suggestive Marks: WORDPERFECT� is Suggestive of word processing software. A suggestive mark is one that suggests or hints at, but does not describe qualities or characteristics of a product or service. Marketers may develop a list of qualities they want the public to associate with their product. Quickness, elegance, comfort, precision, and other superlatives provide a starting point for many protectable trademarks. Often, the characteristics of an unrelated object or creature can suggest a positive connotation about a product, such as MOUNTAIN GOAT for an all-terrain vehicle.

Types of Trademarks to Avoid
The weakest type of trademark is a descriptive word or phrase that simply describes the function, quality or characteristics of a product or service. U PARK IT, for a self-service parking lot , would be a descriptive trademark. Protecting a descriptive mark requires persistent advertising, lengthy use, and/or a high volume of sales resulting in recognition among prospective users. Descriptive trademarks are usually refused registration by the Trademark Office.

Changing the spelling of Descriptive or Generic words (EZ for Easy) offers little additional protection. Surnames and geographical names often present similar obstacles to protection.

Other Considerations
If you plan to use your trademark internationally, make sure it doesn't translate into something which may be inappropriate or undesirable in other languages. You've probably heard about the unfortunate usage of the automobile trademark "Nova" in Spanish-speaking countries, where the name translates into "It doesn't go."

Whatever the trademark you choose, it must not be the same or confusingly similar to any other trademark that is in use for similar products or services in the same geographic area. Consult an attorney early on when creating a new trademark, in order to avoid spending unnecessary time or money, and to ensure that your trademark is suitable and protectable.