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The Types of Trademarks

Not all trademarks are created equal, and not all trademarks make it to the Principal Register. The Principal Register is the primary register of trademarks maintained by the USPTO.  

The marks that make it to the Principal Register without additional administrative steps are fanciful marks, arbitrary marks, and suggestive marks.

Fanciful Marks

“Fanciful” in this context means the word is entirely made up.  The words in the mark were created to function as a mark.  The mark has no equivalent in language, but sounds nice.  Xerox is a perfect example.  You know exactly what company I’m talking about and the kinds of products they produce, but ‘xerox’ wasn’t a word you’d find in a dictionary before the business came to be.

Arbitrary Marks

“Arbitrary” marks are actual words that mean something in another context, but they don’t describe the goods or services offered.  The Amazon is a place, but you know I didn’t get my groceries from the rainforest when I say I placed an order with Amazon.

Suggestive Marks

“Suggestive” marks require a little imagination from the consumer, but provide an idea of what a company offers.  These marks indirectly identify the product.  Coppertone doesn’t describe the product, but does communicate a desired end result.

Descriptive Marks

Descriptive marks, on the other hand, may get to the Principal Register with a little help and some time.  A descriptive mark means the mark literally describes the goods or services.  For example, the USPTO rejected Coaster-Cards, which were postcards that also functioned as coasters.  Other merely descriptive marks include marks that identify the actual place the goods or services come from, or include a person’s surname.  While these marks may not immediately be added to the Principal Register, they may be eligible for the Supplemental Register.

Generic Marks

The USPTO will never register generic marks.  You may not register “laptop” for your laptop, or “car dealership” for your car dealership.

If you have any questions about how the USPTO may treat your trademark, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys for a consultation.