Crafting a solid and impactful trademark is not merely an exercise of creativity—it’s a strategic play. A powerful trademark becomes the representation of your brand’s identity, ethos, and values. It’s the invisible link that connects your brand to your customer’s mind. Therefore, it’s crucial to get it right. Today, we’re going to walk you through some essential rules on how to select a trademark for your business.
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Choosing a surname as your trademark might seem like an attractive idea initially, but it could turn into a potential minefield. Here’s why:
- Lack of Uniqueness. Surnames are common and using them as your brand’s trademark may not provide a distinct identity. There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals or entities with the same surname who might be (or might want to be) in the same line of business.
- Legal Implications. If a brand with a similar surname is already registered, you could find yourself facing legal challenges. It might lead to trademark infringement disputes that can be time-consuming and expensive.
- Difficulty in Registration. According to trademark laws in many jurisdictions, surnames are not usually granted trademark protection unless they’ve acquired distinctiveness or secondary meaning. This means you’ll have to prove that consumers exclusively associate the surname with your product or service, which can be a difficult task, especially for a new business.
- Limited Brand Story. A surname doesn’t tell consumers anything about your business, its values, or what it offers. It doesn’t contribute to your brand story unless the name is already well-known in your industry or it’s associated with a particular product or service.
- Challenges in Global Markets. If you plan on expanding internationally, a surname might not translate well in different markets. It might be hard to pronounce in some languages or it might have different connotations, which can affect your brand’s image.
For these reasons, it’s generally advised to avoid surnames while selecting your business’s trademark. Instead, focus on creating a unique, meaningful and universal name that can effectively represent your brand and resonate with your target audience.
Avoid Too Descriptive Names
Descriptive names can limit your brand’s growth potential. For instance, if you named your bakery “Sweet Cakes,” it would be challenging to expand into savoury products. Furthermore, trademarks that are merely descriptive of the goods or services are not registrable unless they have acquired secondary meaning.
Avoid Confusing Names
Selecting a trademark that is confusingly similar to an existing one can lead to several significant issues. This principle is best exemplified by imagining an attempt to register the trademark ‘Cola-Cona’ for a beverage. Here’s why such a move would be problematic:
- Legal Implications. Trademark law is designed to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace. A trademark such as ‘Cola-Cona’ is far too similar to the globally recognised ‘Coca-Cola.’ This resemblance could be considered infringement, leading to legal disputes. The owners of ‘Coca-Cola’ could claim that ‘Cola-Cona’ is trying to capitalise on their well-established reputation and goodwill, leading to potential lawsuits and hefty fines. In 2018, brand Starbucks filed a case against Sardarbuksh for using a word mark which sounds confusingly similar to Starbucks.
- Consumer Confusion. In the marketplace, the close resemblance between ‘Cola-Cona’ and ‘Coca-Cola’ could lead to considerable consumer confusion. Customers might purchase ‘Cola-Cona’ mistakenly believing it to be ‘Coca-Cola’. This not only harms the consumer but also dilutes the distinctiveness of ‘Coca-Cola.’
- Negative Brand Association. If ‘Cola-Cona’ is perceived as a cheap imitation of ‘Coca-Cola,’ it might damage its reputation right from the start. People tend to have less trust in brands that appear to be copying others.
- Missed Marketing Opportunities. A trademark like ‘Cola-Cona’ misses the opportunity to establish its unique identity. It doesn’t tell its own story or express its own values, making it harder for potential customers to form a connection with the brand.
Avoid Descriptive Words
Descriptive words such as “refreshing,” “cold,” or “delicious” may sound appealing, but they do not make a strong trademark. They lack uniqueness and are generally weak because they describe a quality or characteristic of the product.
Avoid Generic and Geographic Words
Generic words like “green,” “superior,” “American,” “Canadian,” “deluxe,” “gold,” “economy,” and “premium” do not convey a unique identity. Likewise, geographic names can be problematic because they can mislead consumers about the origin of the products or services.
While acronyms might seem like a clever workaround, they often lack distinctiveness. Even despite the fame of brands like IBM(International Business Machines), KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and MTV (Music TeleVision). Without context, an acronym can be hard for consumers to remember or connect with.
Use Invented Words
Invented or coined words can be memorable and unique, making for strong trademarks. ‘Kodak’ is an example of a powerful invented trademark. Another example is ‘Google,’ a word derived from ‘googol,’ but tweaked to sound unique and catchy.
Use Plant or Animal Names
Utilising plant or animal names in your trademark can be a strategic move in branding. Here’s why:
- Easy Recognition. Plant and animal names are easily recognised and remembered. They can help establish a mental image in the minds of your consumers, which aids in building brand recall.
- Convey Characteristics. Certain plant or animal names may convey specific characteristics that align with your brand image. For example, a ‘Lion’ may suggest strength and majesty, while a ‘Rose’ may signify beauty and delicacy.
- Unique and Distinctive. Plant and animal names can make your brand distinctive, setting it apart from others in the marketplace.
- Appeal to Emotions. Such names often appeal to emotions and can create a strong connection with your audience.
Several successful companies have utilised this strategy effectively. For instance:
- Apple. The tech giant uses the name of a simple, everyday fruit. Yet, it has been extremely successful in building a distinctive brand identity around it.
- Jaguar. The British luxury car manufacturer chose the name of a sleek and powerful animal to convey speed, power, and elegance.
- Red Bull. This energy drink brand uses the name of a strong and energetic animal, perfectly aligning with its product’s promise.
- Blackberry. Once a leading name in the smartphone industry, the brand chose a fruit name that was unique and easy to remember.
- Timberland. This American manufacturer of outdoors wear has a tree in its logo, emphasising its focus on durability and outdoorsy ruggedness.
Remember, while plant and animal names can be effective, they should still align with your brand’s image and values, be easily pronounceable and relatable, and not already trademarked in your business’s category. It’s always advisable to conduct thorough research or consult with a trademark professional before deciding on your trademark.
Final Ideas – How to Select a Strong Trademark
Selecting a strong trademark is a fundamental step in launching your business successfully. It should be unique, memorable, and able to resonate with your target audience. The strongest trademarks often push the boundaries of creativity while staying clear of potential legal pitfalls. So, get creative, think outside the box, and start building a brand that stands the test of time.
Choosing a trademark is one of the numerous decisions you will have to make as a business owner. Chern & Co Ltd, with its expertise and experience in trademark registration in Ireland, UK, and the USA, is here to guide you every step of the way.