Ask a marketing expert for advice on how to start and maintain a successful business, and one of the many tips she might give is to have a catchy name or eye-catching logo for your product or business. The name and logo of your business is a valuable asset because its one of the key ways in which consumers not only identify your product or service, but also distinguish you from competitors.
So how do you come up with a good one? The strongest trademarks are distinctive and arbitrary. That is, there is no logical relationship between the mark and the product or service to which it relates. Examples include Apple® computers or Kodak® cameras. If a mark is merely descriptive of the product or service to which it relates, it typically will not be entitled to federal protection unless the owner can establish that the mark has achieved secondary meaning in the marketplace. Secondary meaning is proven, in part, by providing evidence that the public has come to associate the mark with your product or service, i.e., the development of significant customer support and goodwill. Such evidence may include marketing and sales information as well as survey responses and results, which can get pricey. One way to get around the “merely descriptive” roadblock is to seek registration for a stylized design of the name – typically referred to as a logo. Trademark registration is available in several formats. Registration of a standard character mark provides the broadest protection because the applicant is seeking protection of the actual words that comprise the mark without claim to any particular font, size or color.
For example, the name “Coca-Cola®.” Trademark protection is also available for a stylized design of the same name. For example, ®. A stylized design offers less protection than the standard character format because the owner may only be protected against someone else’s use of a similar stylized design, not the actual words. However, it is still very valuable since logo recognition is often how many consumers identify their favorite products and services.
Erin A. Mutty is a Partner at O’Connell, Attmore & Morris with a wealth of experience assisting clients with trademark and copyright protection.