What is the Distinctiveness Spectrum for Trademarks?

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A trademark’s purpose is to identify the source of goods or services. For a trademark to serve its purpose, the consumer must be able to distinguish goods or services associated with a particular trademark. The Distinctiveness Spectrum serves to provide general guidance regarding the strength, and trademarkability, of certain trademarks. A trademark law firm will explain the Distinctiveness Spectrum and the verbiage associated with it. If you have any questions or want to arrange a consultation for legal assistance in obtaining a trademark, contact Allison L. Harrison Law, LLC.

The Distinctiveness Spectrum for Trademarks

A fanciful trademark involves made-up words and is considered distinctive and more likely to be trademarkable. Examples of fanciful trademarks are Kodak® for photographs, Clorox® for bleach, and Adidas® for sporting equipment.  

If a trademark is arbitrary, it also has a high level of distinctiveness and is likely trademarkable. An arbitrary trademark applies to the goods or services in an unfamiliar way. One famous example of an arbitrary trademark is Apple®. This company has nothing to do with the juicy fruit that grows on trees; rather it sells computers, tablets, phones, and watches.

In the middle of the spectrum are suggestive trademarks. These are words that require enough use of imagination that they are not outright descriptive. For example, Coppertone® is a suntan lotion with the goal to make your skin a copper tone. Kleenex® for facial tissue also suggests that its use is to clean.

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A descriptive name cannot be registered as a trademark without inherent distinctiveness or secondary meaning. For example, you cannot register a trademark for Water for your water bottling company. Water is descriptive of your product. Because Water describes water, it would not be a good use of trademark law to prevent every other water company that does business in the United States from using the word water to describe their product.  

A generic mark is specifically excluded from protection by statute. Aspirin was a trademark Bayer owned for acetylsalicylic acid. However, aspirin is now considered a generic term for pain killers in the United States, not just the Bayer version. Thus, Aspirin lost its trademark status in the United States.

Talk to Your Trademark Lawyer

We hope this has enlightened your understanding of the Distinctiveness Spectrum for trademarks. If you have questions or want to begin the trademark process, contact your experienced and knowledgeable trademark law firm at Allison L. Harrison Law, LLC.

Please note that the information contained in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and not as specific legal advice. The facts of your situation may differ from this general information. It is not intended to and does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship.

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