By: Julie Tolek
What does it mean to have a “strong” trademark?
A strong trademark is one that is highly distinctive. In other words, a strong trademark clearly identifies the source of its covered goods or services. The more distinctive the mark is, the stronger the mark is and the easier it is to register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Why do you need a strong trademark?
In addition to being easier to register with the USPTO, a strong trademark offers more protection against third-party use and is less likely to be confused with other marks.
One of the cornerstones of trademark law is whether there is a likelihood of confusion between marks. This likelihood of confusion is examined from a consumer’s point of view. That is to say, would an average consumer be able to recognize the source of the goods or services or would the consumer get them confused with another source?
To prevent such confusion, selecting a strong and distinctive trademark helps consumers to recognize the source of goods or services as your own. Also, a strong trademark makes sense from a business standpoint because a strong, distinctive trademark makes your business stand out from the competition.
Are there different levels of trademark strength?
The case Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World, 537 F.2d 4 (2nd Cir. 1976) established a “spectrum of distinctiveness” categorizing trademarks into five different classes based on different degrees of strength. This “spectrum of distinctiveness” also created levels of protection offered by the USPTO with the strongest marks being awarded the highest amount of protection. The categories are below, from strongest to weakest.[i]
Where should I start when brainstorming for my trademark?
When thinking about your trademark, a good strategy is to consider making up a word that falls into the fanciful category as that offers the strongest protection against third-party use and is easiest to register with the USPTO. The arbitrary and suggestive categories are the next best options for your mark.
Also important to consider are the future plans you for your product or service and what your business goals are. Such considerations might include a sale or potential licensing options down the road. Remember, your trademark is an asset that adds value to your business as a whole and should be considered as part of your entire business development strategy.