The strongest trademarks from a legal standpoint are generally those that do not describe the trademark’s goods or services. Those trademarks are called “fanciful” or “arbitrary.” The weakest trademarks are generally those that describe or suggest the trademark’s goods or services. Generic terms—terms that don’t just describe a good or service, but actually are the good or service—cannot be federally registered as trademarks. The graph below give examples of each of these kinds of trademarks.
• Fanciful: A fanciful trademark is a made-up term, like PEPSI, and is usually the strongest type of trademark.
• Arbitrary: An arbitrary trademark is a real word, like APPLE, that is used on goods or services that are completely unrelated to, and do not describe or suggest, the trademark.
• Suggestive: A suggestive trademark is a trademark that, when applied to goods or services, requires imagination, thought, or perception to reach a conclusion as to the nature of those goods or services.
• Descriptive: A descriptive trademark describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use of the specified goods or services. A descriptive trademark cannot be registered on the principle register unless the trademark owner can show that the mark has become distinctive of its goods or services. This can often be done by showing use of the trademark for five continuous years, or by evidence showing that the public considers the trademark to be distinctive.
• Generic: A generic trademark uses the name of a good or service as the trademark, and it cannot be registered as a trademark.