1. What Product Names Cannot Be Trademarked?
2. Pros and Cons of a Generic Product Name
3. Trademark Registers
4. What Is an Arbitrary Product Name?
5. What Are Fanciful Product Names?
6. Benefits of a Trademark

You need to know how to trademark a product name if you are selling your own product. Generally, a trademark protects a brand name or logo that is used to recognize a product or service. Registering a product for a trademark is somewhat easier the more unique and creative the products name is. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO, does not allow all products to be eligible for a trademark registration.

What Product Names Cannot Be Trademarked?

One example of this is generic products. A phonetic equivalent of a word is considered a generic term for a product. For example, if you decide to make T-shirts and sell them under the name SHIRTZ, you could not protect the name SHIRTZ being that is considered phonetic equivalent to the English word “shirts.”

Pros and Cons of a Generic Product Name

Choosing to give your product a generic name has both positive and negative benefits. On the positive side, you won't have the expense of conducting a federal trademark search or the additional cost of obtaining and registering a trademark. Additionally, you will not have concerns of infringing on another trademark and being sued.

On the negative side, your competitors can use the same name for products or services, which means you will likely struggle with differentiating yourself from your competitors. You will risk imitators counterfeiting and copying your product because you don't own a registered trademark.

Trademark Registers

When filing for a trademark registration, you could potentially end up on one of two registers — the principal register or the supplemental register. The unique trademarks typically end up on the principal register while products such as those with a descriptive name tend to end up on the supplemental register. A descriptive name would be any name that is given to a product to describe the product's quality, characteristic, or a specific feature. For example, a glue product that dries very quickly may be given the name RAPID GLUE.

Before a product with a descriptive name on the supplemental register can become eligible for registration on the principal register, it must be in use commercially for at least five years. It must also have a distinctive feature, quality, or characteristic.

Thinking it will entice consumers if they include something desirable in the name, many inventors make the mistake of giving a descriptive name for their product. So with that being said, if setting your product apart from others or preventing others from imitating your product is important to you, then you should register a trademark.

Names that suggest something about a product, such as naming a flaming hot chili sauce, LAVA, are considered suggestive product names. Another example of suggestive naming is giving tissues the name of SNIFFLES.

What Is an Arbitrary Product Name?

Due to the uniqueness of arbitrary product names, trademarks on such products are readily accepted, as well. When a product is given a name that has no relation to a familiar English language word, it is considered to have an arbitrary name. For instance, naming a tennis racket by the name STAPLER would be using the word stapler as arbitrary.

What Are Fanciful Product Names?

Likewise, making up a name that is nonexistent in the English language is another way to ensure trademark registration eligibility. Not only will this get you registered, but it will also provide the greatest amount of protection available. Names that are made up and have no meaning are referred to as fanciful product names and one example of this is naming a tire cleaner, or any other product, YAGZET.

Benefits of a Trademark

  • Discourages other brands from using the same mark or a mark that is similar to yours.
  • Serves as a form of evidence that you have exclusive ownership of a product.
  • Gives you the ability to use the ® symbol.
  • Opens you up to qualify for foreign registrations.
  • Opens you up to be entitled to certain types of statutory damages.

A trademark can help protect your business while also protecting consumers from buying products that are not true in representation. In addition, a trademark provides you with a competitive edge in today's highly competitive marketplace, allowing you to build a reputable identity and goodwill over time. There is power contained in a trademark, which makes the product even more valuable. In the event you decide to sell your business, a registered trademark can command a premium value, which is especially welcomed at negotiation time.

If you need help with knowing how to trademark a product, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.