The most common trademark mistake I’ve seen is businesses giving their products or services descriptive names. For example, Chicago’s Best Cleaning Company would be considered descriptive. From a marketing perspective, it makes sense. But from a trademark perspective, this is a no-no.
Businesses can’t register a federal trademark for a brand name that’s merely descriptive. The only exception is that sometimes businesses may be able to register the trademark after five years of massive investment in marketing and advertising. At that point, the business may be able to successfully prove that their use of the mark has given it a secondary meaning. In other words, they’ve garnered such fame while using the descriptive name that people now immediately associate it with their service or product.
Have you ever wondered why the biggest brands, always seem to have the most random names (and trademarks)?
This is very intentional and an example of great intellectual property strategy. But first, let’s take a glimpse at some of today’s most famous trademarks:
But first, let’s take a glimpse at some of the most famous trademarks:
Can you guess the one thing that these brands have in common?
In trademark world, there are two very strong categories of names. The absolute strongest is a name that’s fanciful – one that’s completely made up. The next category is a name that’s arbitrary – used out of context. These names tend to be more valuable because they are the most distinctive, and the most difficult to successfully challenge (yes, people can challenge and even petition for your trademark to be cancelled once it’s registered).
That’s the secret. The biggest brands that you’re paying attention to and spending money with have names that are arbitrary or fanciful. They are the easiest to protect and they are more valuable.
It’s difficult to come up with an arbitrary or fanciful name. Truthfully, these businesses tend to have teams (legal and copywriting) involved with naming. But, I wanted to lift the veil so you can understand why they do what they do.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a trademark for other names (for example, my brand name and trademark would be considered “suggestive”). A suggestive trademark is the most common type of trademark because it more plainly identifies the product or service. It tends to be a favorite of some copywriting pros. The con of suggestive trademarks is that they often cross the line into being descriptive, so you have to be careful.
I wanted to give insight on this naming issue so that you can begin to spot red flags in your own brand. Also, if you’re looking to bring in investors or sell the business down the road you must begin with a well-vetted, strong name.
Want us to help you with vetting and registering the trademark for your brand name? Submit an intake today.