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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Getting it just right

Choosing the right brand for your company is a crucial task, especially for emerging businesses across various industries.

A strong brand not only helps distinguish your company from competitors but also fosters trust and loyalty among customers, making it an attractive asset for potential investors.

While developing a brand identity involves several decisions, selecting the right name for your product is the foremost and most critical choice. This article focuses on the importance of choosing a distinctive name that qualifies for trademark protection.

What does it mean for a brand to be "distinctive"? The distinctiveness of a brand is determined by how closely it describes a feature or characteristic of the goods and services offered. For instance, the word "apple" is not distinctive for fruit stand services as it immediately describes the services' nature. However, the same word becomes highly distinctive when used for consumer electronics, as it does not describe any feature of such goods.

There are five classifications of distinctiveness to consider:

  1. Generic Words: These are common names of products and are never protectable as trademarks.

  2. Descriptive Marks: Terms describing a product's features may not be eligible for trademark protection initially. However, through extensive use and advertising, they may acquire distinctiveness.

  3. Suggestive Marks: These hints at the nature of the product without directly describing it. They are inherently distinctive and eligible for protection.

  4. Arbitrary Marks: Consisting of words with a common meaning unrelated to the product, these marks are highly distinctive and receive broad protection.

  5. Fanciful or Coined Marks: Invented words that are the most distinctive and receive the highest level of protection.

Companies, especially those in good health, should aim for names falling under the categories of "suggestive," "arbitrary," or "fanciful." Though the latter two may require more marketing effort, the payoff can be substantial.

Aside from distinctiveness, companies must be wary of pitfalls commonly encountered in every industry:

  1. Geographically Descriptive Terms: Identifying geographic locations in marks can be challenging to protect, especially if the location is where the products originate.

  2. Geographic Indications: Using terms reserved for products produced in specific regions may lead to complications.

  3. Misdescriptive Language: Avoid using language that is factually inaccurate, as marks should not mislead consumers.

  4. Laudatory Terms: Positive quality descriptors like "best" or "super" are not eligible for trademark protection.

Once potential brand names are identified, it is advisable to engage legal counsel for a trademark clearance search to ensure exclusivity and assess potential conflicts with third parties.

After selecting a strong brand, consistent and strategic marketing efforts are essential to building goodwill, differentiating from competitors, and attracting investors. Leveraging social media marketing can be particularly effective for authentic engagement with the target audience.

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