Innovative Patent & Intellectual Property Attorneys

Understanding the basic categories of trademarks

| Mar 5, 2021 | Trademarks

For Minnesotans setting about establishing an idea or product, one of the key decisions they must make is getting a trademark. There are certain companies that are immediately associated with their product based on their trademark. The simple mentioning of a name or symbol will elicit an immediate connection. The McDonald’s golden arches is a prime example. Names and phrases can also be trademarked. Unsurprisingly, trademarks can have immense value and those who do not take the steps to protect their product with a trademark may regret it. Knowing the basics about trademarks is a wise first step.

The four fundamental categories of trademarks

When establishing a trademark, there are four categories including generic, descriptive, suggestive and arbitrary or fanciful. As the word “generic” implies, it is not related to an exact product, but an entire class. This is technically not a trademark as the item is so generalized and part of the lexicon that it cannot be linked to any specific individual or company. The word “computer” would be an example.

A descriptive trademark gives an idea about the item and its function. Like the computer example under generic trademarks, there is a basic understanding of what it does and others cannot be stopped from using the same description. It cannot be exclusive. Still, if a company or individual can attach the description to its product, it can be connected to an entity that makes it and benefit in that way.

Suggestive trademarks simply imply how it can be used by those who might want to buy or use it. A car named after a stealth and speedy animal would immediately be associated with that animal’s known attributes. This is an example of descriptive trademarking. Arbitrary or fanciful is simply connecting a word that has no prior meaning to a product and embedding it in the customer’s consciousness through service and repetition until it is automatically understood even if the word did not previously exist.

Navigating the potential confusion of trademarks

A mistake that people frequently make is not understanding the basics of trademark issues. Some entities are intensely aware of their trademarks and protect it to a stunning degree. An example is the National Football League and the Super Bowl. When considering a trademark and what kind is needed, it is important to have experienced legal assistance from the start. This can simplify the process and provide necessary protection from the outset.


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