Most designers are never asked to register a trademark for their clients. However, a basic understanding of trademark law will help in designing an effective trademark. Trademarks serve to inform the consumer where goods or services originate. In addition, trademarks serve as an assurance to consumers that the goods or services associated with a “mark” are of same type and quality they have grown to associate with that source. The first priority in creating a trademark is to ensure that it is available for both commercial use and federal registration. There are many free resources available to a designer and the best ones are available on our website for your use. However, understanding the long and somewhat confusing technicalities of trademark law and the process of registering a trademark, often times requires the assistance of a legal professional experienced in these matters.

The designer must work to create a mark that is both readily associated with the product yet unique enough to qualify for trademark protection. From a legal perspective, trademarks are categorized as generic, descriptive, suggestive, or arbitrary. Generic or descriptive marks cannot be registered. Generic terms are in common everyday use (“Tissue” brand facial tissue), while descriptive marks describe the goods (“Whole Wheat” brand bread). Laudative terms (“Tasty wine”) are also frowned upon since they are considered descriptive. On the other hand, suggestive marks (like Citibank and Chicken of the Sea) merely allude to the goods rather than describing them. Arbitrary or fanciful marks (like Kodak and Polaroid) make no reference to the goods with which they are used. Generally, the more “fanciful” or “arbitrary” a trademark is in relation to the goods it is associated with, the stronger its distinctiveness. However, a careful balancing is necessary – what makes an effective trademark from a legal perspective has nothing to do with its design attributes. Good designers rely on us to help them create great designs that are also strong trademarks.





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