Trademark law protects the public from confusion by clearly identifying the source of a good or service in the stream of commerce. Delain Law Office, PLLC helps clients establish trademark rights, whether those rights are common-law rights or entail state and/or federal registration.
Trademarks are used for goods; service marks are trademarks used for services. We tend to use “trademark” to include both goods and services when we speak quickly.
Trademarks and service marks come in various strengths:
- Fanciful marks are made-up words that do not exist in any language. Fanciful marks are the strongest marks available, subject to the best protection. Famous examples of fanciful marks include XEROX® and KODAK®.
- Arbitrary marks comprise a word or words that exist in a language, but the word(s) is used in a proprietary sense, and the word is in no way descriptive of the good or service for which the mark is used. Arbitrary marks are not as strong as fanciful marks, but are entitled to good, solid protection. One famous example of an arbitrary mark is APPLE® Computer (apples grow on trees, keep doctors at bay, and do not contain circuits or microchips).
- Suggestive marks comprise a word or words that suggest the good or service for which the mark is used. Suggestive marks are the weakest marks for which protection is available; it is the weakest protection available for trademarks. Famous examples of suggestive marks include VISA® and WEIGHT WATCHERS®.
- Descriptive marks comprise a word or words that describe the good or service for which the mark is used. These marks cannot be protected until the trademark’s owner shows that the mark has acquired distinctiveness through use in the marketplace. Generally, geographic names fall into this category.
- Generic marks comprise the word or words by which we identify the good or service for which the mark is used. Generic marks can never gain protection; you cannot take out of the language the word we use to mean the good or service. ESCALATOR is such a mark, as are CELLOPHANE, ASPIRIN, and other words that indicate the good or service.