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What kinds of trademarks can be registered?

There are four main kinds of trademarks:

1. Descriptive;
2. Suggestive;
3. Arbitrary; and
4. Fanciful
Descriptive trademarks are generally refused registration, whereas suggestive, arbitrary, or fanciful trademarks are considered to be stronger trademarks that have the potential to be registered.

1. Descriptive

Descriptive trademarks are often the easiest to market because they describe the goods or services they are marketed with. Examples of descriptive trademarks would be "Honey Roasted Peanuts" to describe honey roasted peanuts and "Vision Center" in reference to a business offering optical goods and services. This website, which offers advice and services relating to registering a trademark, has the descriptive trademark of Registering A Trademark. Companies may choose a descriptive trademark even though it is a weak mark because there are marketing benefits to using a mark that describes the product. The USPTO feels that a descriptive trademark is not initially entitled to registration, because it describes all other competing products too. Descriptive marks may become registerable upon a showing that consumers identify that descriptive term with only one company.

2. Suggestive

Suggestive trademarks indirectly refer to the goods or services with which they are associated. Suggestive marks require the consumer to exercise their imagination in order to determine the nature of the goods or services. Examples of suggestive marks include "Greyhound" for bus services and "Jaguar" for automobiles, with both marks suggesting the speed of their products, both of which are used for transportation.

3. Arbitrary

Arbitrary marks are common English words which are used in a way such that their normal meaning bears no relationship to the goods or services to which they are applied. "Nickelodeon" is an example of an arbitrary mark, for its definition as "an early movie theater charging an admission price of five cents" has no direct relation to a cable television channel for children. The trademark "Apple" for computer products is another example of an arbitrary mark. Obviously, whether a mark is arbitrary or not depends upon its context. "Apple" as applied to computers is arbitrary, but as applied to a fruit grower that mark would be descriptive.

Arbitrary marks are generally easy to register because there is no connection between the mark and the goods or services, but they may present a marketing challenge.

4. Fanciful

Fanciful trademarks are generally "coined" terms that had no meaning before their use as a trademark. Famous examples of fanciful trademarks include "Kodak," "Xerox," and "Oreo." Fanciful words are inherently distinctive and immediately function as a trademark or service mark. They are afforded the greatest amount of trademark protection.


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