CopyMark Law Group


Strength of Mark

A simple way to think about weak and strong marks is to picture a gauge that goes from weak to strong.
In a legal sense, a strong trademark is one that allows you to more easily prevent other parties from using your mark and it is one that is easier to protect than “weaker” marks. A simple way to think about weak and strong marks is to picture a gauge that goes from weak to strong. The weakest marks aren’t even really marks at all. They are generic words that are incapable of identifying source. Think “BICYCLE” for “bicycles” or “MILK” for “a dairy-based beverage.” These are common, everyday names for goods and services and are not registrable by themselves.


Descriptive terms are stronger than generic terms, but are still very hard to protect. Descriptive terms directly tell you something about the goods and services and generally are not registrable without showing that a mark has, through long use, become a source identifier. Think “CREAMY” for “yogurt” or “THE ULTIMATE BIKE RACK” for “a bicycle rack.” These words merely describe a feature or quality of the goods and services. Descriptive marks are harder to register and protect because they merely provide information about the goods and services. They don’t “identify the source” of goods and services and “distinguish the source” of the goods and services from others.


Suggestive marks are stronger than descriptive marks. As the name implies, they “suggest” qualities or characteristics of the goods and services, without actually describing them. Think “QUICK N’ NEAT” for “pie crust” or “GLANCE-A-DAY” for “calendars.” Suggestive marks are registrable and are the next best thing to the strongest types of marks: “fanciful” marks and “arbitrary” marks.

Fanciful and Arbitrary

“Fanciful” and “arbitrary” marks are the easiest types of marks to protect because they are inherently distinctive and immediately function as source identifiers. They are typically creative or unusual, so it is less likely that other parties are using them for related goods and services. “Fanciful” marks are invented words with no dictionary or other known meaning. For example, “GOOGLE” for “search engine.” “Arbitrary” marks are actual words with a known meaning, but words that have no association or relationship with the identified goods and services. For example, “APPLE” for “computers.” Choosing a fanciful or arbitrary mark is a great way to help consumers identify the source of your goods and services and distinguish them from the goods and services of others. These kinds of marks are immediately protectable.
So, make sure to select a mark with some strength and to keep the strength up on your mark once you start using it. That will help consumers recognize your mark as the source of your goods and services.