Trademark Basics: How Strong is Your Trademark?
The selection of a particular mark that will function as a trademark is very important. This is because the particular mark will be placed on a continuum where the mark will be categorized as fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive or generic. The strength of trademark protection varies along the continuum with the greatest protection for fanciful and arbitrary marks, somewhat lesser protection for suggestive marks, even less protection for descriptive marks and finally no protection for generic marks.
Fanciful marks consist of "coined" words or terms that have been invented and do not have a dictionary meaning, such as Kodak, Polaroid or Exxon. Arbitrary marks are those marks that consist of commonplace words, terms or symbols that are used in such a manner that they do not describe the product or service with which they are associated and includes such marks as Black & White for scotch whiskey and Apple for computers. Suggestive marks are familiar words or phrases that are frequently used by publishing and media companies in an inventive way to "suggest" what their product or service really consists of and are the middle ground between arbitrary and descriptive marks; such marks include Nickelodeon for a children's television channel and At A Glance for calendars. Descriptive marks describe the product, service or contents of the product and include such marks as Continuous Progress for educational materials and Personal Finance for a financial investment magazine. Generic marks are names of the product or service itself and these terms cannot function as trademarks; such terms include Aspirin, Consumer Electronics Monthly as a title of a magazine and Pocket Book for paperback books.