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The Four Categories of Trademarks

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A trademark is used in correlation with tangible goods, product, or company. Most people believe that all trademarks possess the same amount of protection. However, trademarks are rated on a scale of one to four, with four considered as the highest standing. The higher the trademark rating, the more commercial appeal it possesses or the more distinguished the company is, which corresponds with more protection strength compared to lower rated trademarks.

The following are the four ratings of trade mark protection in order from lowest to highest:

  1. Generic – This type of mark is used for common, everyday terms which everyone has the right to use, meaning they offer no trademark protection whatsoever. To allow someone to trademark a common word, such as car or gum, would prevent everyone else from using that term in a sale of such products.
  2. Descriptive – A mark which describes the nature of goods or services will be allowed protection only if the owner possesses proof of a supplementary, distinctive meaning that results from the public’s recognition of the mark with the owner’s goods or services. This might be a mark which uses the color, smell, or ingredients of a good or service.
  3. Suggestive – A mark which suggests the quality or attributes of a good or service. Suggestive trademarks are different from descriptive marks in which they don’t describe the product, but instead, suggest a feature that requires some thought or perception on the consumer’s part.
  4. Arbitrary or Fanciful – Afforded the most protection, a fanciful trademark is one in which the owner has created for the sole purpose of marketing their product or service under a trademark. Popular examples include Nike and Netflix. An arbitrary trademark is one with common meaning, but the meaning doesn’t relate to the goods or services offered. Popular examples include Apple, since it’s associated with computer technology and not fruit, as well as Amazon, which corresponds to the service of selling goods online instead of the South American rain forest.

If you require legal assistance with registering a trademark, contact Dossey & Jones PLLC and schedule your free consultation today.

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