How to Choose a Distinctive Trademark

Your company’s trademark or service mark is the core of your brand identity in the marketplace. As such, it is one of your most valuable business assets and deserves to be developed with a great deal of forethought and creativity.

Once you have selected a potential mark, proper trademark searching must be conducted before you begin using it to make sure that your mark does not infringe the rights of prior users of a mark that is very similar. The importance of proper trademark searching will be discussed in detail in a future post. For now, here are some practical tips to bear in mind while searching for a distinctive trademark or service mark:

Make your name memorable. A creative, distinctive name will not only be entitled to a high level of trademark protection, but it will also stick in the minds of your customers and distinguish you from your competitors.

Forgettable names are those that:

  • Incorporate the names of people, (like Diane Taylor Designs for women’s clothing.)
  • Include geographic terms (like Westlake Dry Cleansers.)
  • Literally describe your product or service (like Carpet and Tile Warehouse.)
  • Include merely laudatory terms (like World’s Best Barbecue).

More memorable names are those that:

  • Suggest something positive about your product or service without precisely revealing what it is (like Coppertone for suntan lotion and Wrangler for western-style jeans and boots.)
  • Are catchy, a play on a word or phrase or have a double entendre (like The Right Wing for a restaurant featuring chicken wings, The Mane Event for a hair salon and White House/Black Market for a retail store store specializing in black and white colored clothing.)
  • Consist of or incorporate an actual word, but not a word associated with your product or service (like Domino’s for Pizza, The Crazy Daisy for a clothing boutique and Firefly for wine.)
  • Consist of or incorporate a made up term that has no meaning other than as a trademark, like Exxon for gasoline or Reebok for shoes. These types of marks are among the most distinctive and protectable. (If that’s even a word.)

While choosing a distinctive trademark can be challenging, it’s worth the increased degree of protection you’ll have, the likelihood that customers will remember it, and the increased market visibility. Plus, it will help keep you out of my horror stories.