Distinctiveness as a character though does not exist in all trademarks to the same degree. There is a hierarchy of sorts that classifies all such trademarks with differing degrees of distinctiveness into five categories in descending order of strongest to weakest:
Fanciful Marks – A fanciful mark, also known as a coined mark, consists of a combination of letters and is invented for the sole purpose of functioning as a trademark. When not used for a good it does not have any inherent meaning and can be used to distinguish the owner’s goods and/or services. Interestingly, this kind of mark also does not have any relation whatsoever with the good (s) or service (s) it represents.
Examples: EXXON for petroleum products, KODAK for cameras, XEROX for document solutions and products as well as services
From the legal and marketability perspective, fanciful or coined marks are often accorded the best degree of protection from unauthorized use. However, since this kind of mark does not have any meaning as such, considerable time and money have to be invested in educating the public regarding the nexus between the invented word/phrase and the goods/services represented by the mark, through advertising, contests, or different kinds of marketing campaigns.
Arbitrary Marks – An arbitrary mark is one that has a common meaning but is used to represent goods or services unconnected to that meaning. This sort of makes it a super mark and gives it a high degree of legal protection as well as market reach. It only differs from a fanciful mark in the sense that it does have some meaning when used in common parlance, however, does not represent any qualities, features, genre or associated aspect of the goods/services. Hence, it can easily be distinguished by the public.
Examples: APPLE for phones and computers, BLACKBERRY for suits, LOTUS for software, CAMEL for cigarettes.
In case of arbitrary marks as well, advertisement and mass awareness programs need to be conducted to educate the public regarding the trademark and the goods and/or services it represents.
Keeping in mind the degree of strength of distinctiveness as per the classifications described above, it follows that choosing fanciful and arbitrary marks would be the best way to protect and market one’s trademark better.
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