Brandigation Basics: What Makes a Trademark Strong?

Some marks are stronger than others, and among the strongest marks are those consisting of a made-up word or a word that has a common meaning but is applied to a product or service in an arbitrary way. An example of a made-up word, or fanciful trademark, would be PEPSI, KODAK or EXXON. These are inherently strong marks and provide a trademark owner with a broad scope of protection. 

Next, an arbitrary mark is a word that may have a common meaning, like APPLE, but is applied to a product unrelated to the meaning, such as APPLE for computers, or OLD CROW for whiskey. These marks also are afforded a broad scope of protection. 

Finally, a suggestive mark does not directly describe a product or service, but points to some quality related to the product or service. Examples of suggestive marks would be KITCHENAID for kitchen appliances or GREYHOUND for bus transportation services. Suggestive marks require some imagination, thought, or perception for a consumer to reach a conclusion as to the exact nature of the products or services. Suggestive marks also are inherently strong and comparatively easy to protect and enforce, unlike generic terms that identify a category, or genus, of a product.