A logo is a symbol adopted by an organization as a means of identification. It can be registered or not. More specifically, a trademark is a recognizable name, sign, symbol, sound or smell, which identifies the company and/or product that it represents. According to “Attorney, Linda Kattwinkel at the “Head, Heart, Hand: AIGA Design Conference”, to claim exclusive rights to a trademark it should be registered and renewed as necessary.
There are three types of strong trademarks. These designs are unique in some way and therefore easily designated as an original mark. Strong trademarks should be registered at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and are called Principal registrations.
- Fanciful trademarks are the most protected. They are often made-up names, such as Xerox, Kodak, and Rolex.
- Arbitrary trademarks are based on words or symbols that exist but their original meaning is not usually associated with the new use. Examples of these would include Yahoo, Target, and Apple.
- Suggestive trademarks are associations between the trademark and it’s product but they are different enough not to be descriptive. One example is the Ford Mustang car, which suggests the Mustang car has the speed of a mustang horse. Other examples in this category are Coppertone and Microsoft.
Some weaker trademarks can also be registered, but they are considered Supplemental registrations.
- Descriptive trademarks can be a family name or location, or they strongly describe the product in a literal way. Some examples of descriptive trademarks are Park N’ Fly, Shake N’ Bake, and Computerland.
- Generic trademarks cannot be registered and have no protection. Consider the brand, Kettle Potato Chips. Since many potato chips are prepared in a kettle this logo was ruled too generic to trademark. Sometimes a fanciful name can become generic and loose it’s protection. This happened to cellophane, aspirin, and zipper, which all began as unique fanciful names. Over time, they became so commonplace that they were not associated with one particular product.
Take time to research your company or product name before you spend money on design. Your logo/trademark will hopefully be around for a long and prosperou