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How to Choose a Good Trademark

Consumer guide to Trademark a Name

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Trademark lawyers Cheryl Hodgson and Bill Finkelstein share how to stand out from the crowd when you choose a trademark.

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A good trademark is one that is strong and legally protectable. Before launching a new product or service, take some some to make certain you have chosen a good trademark. In this Brandaide conversation, trademark lawyers Bill Finkelstein and Cheryl Hodgson share what makes for a good trademark. The new brand owner wants the mark to be memorable and distinctive. Arbitrary names like APPLE are distinctive and make strong marks. What about surnames like McDonalds? Is that a good trademark?

Cheryl Hodgson: Bill, what makes for a good trademark?

Bill Finkelstein: Well, the most important thing certainly is for it to be memorable. You want people to remember it when they go to the store, or when they go online to make purchases. You also want it to be a distinctive trademark, which helps with memorability, so when you advertise it and when it appears on packaging, people immediately recognize it.

A lot of people choose their own names, and of course if you choose Bill as a trademark, how many thousands of Bills are out there, Cheryls or what not? Or even last names. Take something like McDonald’s which right now we would say is a distinctive trademark, but many years ago, in choosing your last name and there are other McDonald’s out there, it takes a long time to build investment and to spend money and time and advertising to get that recognition factor for something like a surname or geographic name.

Not every trademark has to be a made up name like Pepsi, but those are really good trademarks.

Cheryl: So Pepsi’s really a made up name. Where did it come from, by the way, do you know?

Bill: The illusion apparently back in the late 1800’s was to calming your stomach down. And peptic is a Latin word having something to do with your stomach, so I think that’s the best guess that anyone has, because in those days, soft drinks were actually dispensed at soda fountains. Those were inside drug stores. So that is what apparently where it came from.

It is a made up word, it’s not in the dictionary, and therefore it is what we call a very strong trademark because when you see Pepsi or you hear the word Pepsi, it only conjures up one thought.

When you have a trademark like Apple, if you just use the word Apple, it could refer to obviously the red thing that we eat, and of course it also refers to music and record albums, as well as obviously now the very popular computer. But again, with a dictionary word it’s a little extra investment, a little extra time to develop the kind of association between that word and the product or service that you’re selling.

Cheryl: So when you say a dictionary word, you mean like an ordinary word like an apple, because it has a meaning or a generic term, you like to say sometime. It’s generic for a kind of fruit. But it can be a good trademark if it’s applied arbitrarily to something unrelated to fruit.

Bill: Yes, exactly.

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