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Trademark Distinctiveness

Definition - What does Trademark Distinctiveness mean?

Trademark distinctiveness is a term for the range of categories used to determine the level of protection afforded to a trademark under applicable state and federal laws. It includes the following classifications:

  • Generic marks
  • Descriptive marks
  • Suggestive marks
  • Arbitrary marks
  • Fanciful marks

Trademarks that fall into the first two categories are ineligible for any protection, while those that fall into the last three automatically qualify for protection.

Justipedia explains Trademark Distinctiveness

Here's a closer look at the classifications of trademark distinctiveness:

  1. Generic marks, which do not qualify for trademark protection, use universal words, symbols and characters to identify the product or service.
  2. Descriptive marks, which do not qualify for trademark protection, use universal words, symbols and characters to describe the product or service.
  3. Suggestive marks, which do qualify for trademark protection, have similar characteristics to descriptive marks. But, as their name indicates, they use these words or symbols in a suggestive rather than explicit manner.
  4. Arbitrary marks are different from the others because the words, symbols and characters used in them can be used to describe more than one thing.
  5. Fanciful marks are generally the most specific to the product in question because they are explicitly created for use with that product.
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