What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a phrase or symbol that serves as a representation of a brand.  The concept of a trademark stretches back to historical times when stained glass makers and metal workers would apply a distinctive mark on their products signifying the source of the origin.  Trademark law has matured over the years to permit trademark owners to protect their brands, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Trademark law is rather flexible in that protection extends to words, symbols, logos, and even in some cases color or sounds.  Shoemaker, Christian Louboutin, has successfully attained a trademark on the color red when applied on the sole of shoes.  The key to successfully registering a trademark is tied to how distinct the mark is, when applied to your goods and services, compared to how others may utilize the mark.

For example, an Apple trademark of its Apple logo is fairly strong within the technology field. Other entities are generally unable to use that specific symbol defensibly. On the other hand, Apple trying to trademark the word “apple” would be considered very weak.  Apple would not be able to prevent a grocery store from marketing the fruit apples, nor would they be able to prohibit clothing being labeled as The BIG APPLE.  The key consideration is that consumers would not be confused that those goods (fruits or clothes) originate from the technology behemoth – Apple, says Gaurav MohindraApple is considered an arbitrary trademark in that it is a known word (Apple), but associated with a completely different product (computers).

Arbitrary trademarks are considered strong.  In addition, fanciful trademarks are also considered strong.  A fanciful trademark includes a word that is completely made up. The brand name Kodak is one such example. There was no entity or name called Kodak prior to the company creating the name and using it in its branding. It’s very strong now, as any other reference to it is necessarily in reference to their usage of it.

Suggestive trademarks are the next category down the distinctiveness scale. These trademarks are suggestive of the goods or services for which the trademark is used. These trademarks are also distinctive, and they will relate to some kind of quality or characteristic of the product, but it will not actually describe it. “NETFLIX” (internet movies), “AIRBUS” (planes), and “KitchenAid” (kitchen appliances) are good examples, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Avoid generic or descriptive words that simply describe the actual goods and services you are providing, says Gaurav Mohindra