World Intellectual Property Organization

Creating or Selecting a Trademark

Creating or selecting a trademark is no easy task. There are, in fact, specialized companies whose main service is to find or develop an appropriate trademark for your needs. While there are no hard-and-fast rules of what may be a successful trademark, there are some useful guidelines. Initially, you should make sure that your proposed mark meets the legal requirements for trademark registration. Above all, your mark must be sufficiently distinctive to be protectable and registrable with your national and foreign trademark offices. Inherent distinctiveness will also enhance its easy recognition by consumers. Moreover, if your trademark includes text (one or more words) you may wish to consider the following commonly used criteria for creating, designing or selecting it:

  • The sign should be easy to read, spell, pronounce and remember in all relevant languages.
  • It should have no adverse meaning in slang or undesirable connotations.
  • It should be suitable for export markets with no adverse meaning in foreign languages, especially if you intend to commercialize the product abroad.
  • It should not create confusion as to the nature of the product.
  • It should be adaptable to all advertising media.

Your trademark of choice is likely to fall under one of the following categories:

Coined words (or “fanciful” words): These are invented words without any real meaning in any language (e.g. Kodak or Exxon). Coined words have the advantage of being easy to protect as they are more likely to be considered distinct. On the negative side, however, they may be more difficult to remember for consumers requiring greater efforts in advertising the products.

Arbitrary marks are trademarks that consist of words that have a real meaning in a given language. The meaning of such words, however, has no relation to the product itself or to any of its qualities (e.g. Apple for a Computer). As is the case with coined words, while the level and ease of protection is generally high, there is no direct association between the mark and the product requiring thus greater marketing power to create such an association in the mind of the consumer.

Suggestive marks are marks which hint at one or some of the attributes of the product. The appeal of suggestive marks lies in the fact that they act as a form of advertising and may create a direct association in the mind of consumers between the trademark, certain desired qualities and the product. A related risk, however, is that some jurisdictions may consider a suggestive mark too descriptive or not sufficiently distinctive to meet the criteria for trademark protection.

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