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The Strengths of Trademark Classifications

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Trademarks are generally classified into one or more categories by the United States Patent & Trademark Office, namely, generic, descriptive, suggestive or arbitrary. Marks receive differing degrees of protection based upon their particular classification.

Generic marks: Trademark rights cannot exist in trademarks that are considered generic. A generic term is the common ordinary name of a good or service and can never serve as a trademark. Examples of generic terms include “corn flakes”, “automobile” and “basketball”.

Descriptive marks: Descriptive trademarks describe one or more aspects of an associated product or service. Descriptive trademarks are usually not preferred. Trademark protection is only extended to descriptive trademarks that have attained a secondary meaning. Secondary meaning is achieved when a trademark has been used for so long and/or so exclusively that, beyond conveying a literal meaning, the public associates the mark directly with the source of the underlying goods or services.

Suggestive marks: Unlike descriptive trademarks, suggestive trademarks merely suggest or hint at some quality, aspect or component of the goods or services with which they are used. A suggestive trademark is usually stronger than a descriptive trademark and does not require a showing of secondary meaning.

Fanciful or Arbitrary marks: Fanciful or arbitrary trademarks are the most distinctive and are generally entitled to the greatest level of protection. Such trademarks are typically unknown before they become associated with a product. A famous example of an arbitrary trademark is the coined mark Kodak for photographic-related products and services. An example of an arbitrary mark is Apple for computers.

You would be wise to consult with a Florida trademark attorney first, before undertaking any trademark matters.

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