A common misconception among many entrepreneurs is that they should use a name that best describes their business, products or services. Their intention is to enable customers to easily remember them. Some tech businesses use generic names so as to increase web traffic on key word searches. However, having a descriptive or generic name for your startup, products or services is not a good strategy for your growing business. The name you select should score high on the degree of protectiveness. You can determine your score by fitting your mark into one of the following categories.

Coined *****

A coined mark is one that is invented solely for the purpose of using it as a trademark. For example, “KODAK” for photography, “REEBOK” for shoes, “twenty19.com” for internships, “SONY” for electronics. Coined marks earn the highest score in the degree of protectiveness as they neither describe the goods or services nor have any dictionary meaning. It is also difficult for others to infringe coined marks as it is difficult for others to give a plausible explanation for adopting similar marks.

Arbitrary or Fanciful ****

An arbitrary or fanciful mark is one that has no relationship with your product or service. For example “APPLE” for computers is an arbitrary mark. Likewise “GOOGLE” for search services and “jabong.com” for online shopping are fanciful marks. Arbitrary and fanciful marks are strong and protectable marks.

Suggestive ***

A suggestive mark is one that gives you a hint of the products or services for which the mark is used. For example, “makemytrip.com” is a suggestive name for travel ticket bookings. The mark “makemytrip.com” hints that the service is related to your trip but does not directly describe travel ticket booking services.

Descriptive **

A descriptive mark is one that describes the goods and services for which it is used. For example, “computer store” for a store selling computers and “shoe world” for a store selling shoes. In general it is not possible to protect descriptive marks, however if the mark has acquired distinctiveness or a secondary meaning by extensive and long usage then the same can be protected. For example “naukri.com” is an online portal where users in search of jobs can post their resumes and employers can review the resumes to hire these users. The lingual meaning of the word “naukri” is “job”. Ordinarily this mark cannot be protected as it is descriptive, however, it now, enjoys protection as it has acquired distinctiveness by extensive and long usage.

Generic *

A generic mark is one that is the common name of the goods and services and generally has a dictionary meaning. For example, the names “pen” or “facial tissue”. Generic marks cannot be registered as trademarks and enjoy no protection. A trademark can also become generic due to improper use.

Very often, marks that are strong from a marketing perspective are weak when it comes to legal protection. Though a mark, that is descriptive will improve sales or marketing during the initial days, by communicating to the consumers what exactly the product or service is or does, but a long term branding potential of a mark can only be achieved by seeking proper legal protection.

It is therefore, imperative that you brain storm to select a strong mark for your startup, product or service. It is a time consuming and challenging task but the fruits of your labour will pay off when your mark helps you build your brand identity and consumer goodwill.

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