What is a Generic Trademark

Dec 20, 2016

Choosing a strong trademark, one that is legally enforceable, could be one of the most important considerations for business startups. The selected trademark should convey what the entrepreneurs want to say about their products and should meet the goals of the business in creating a brand that is both attractive and effective for the market. Entrepreneurs can consult a trademark lawyer who will assist the business with the legal aspects of the trademark while considering the business aspects of the trademark. When advising businesses on selecting a legally enforceable trademark, a trademark attorney may categorize the trademark based upon its likely enforceability.

Generally, there are four categories of trademarks: (1) generic; (2) descriptive; (3) suggestive; and (4) fanciful or arbitrary. In evaluating each type, entrepreneurs should keep in mind what their overall marketing strategies are.

A generic term is the common name for a particular product. Generic terms cannot be protected as trademarks. A business cannot claim its proprietary mark from a generic term under the law. In other words, generic terms could not receive protection because they cannot function as viable marks under trademark law, which would distinguish specific goods or services from others. Therefore, they belong to the public domain—and not to an exclusive business owner. These terms do not meet the goals of a business in branding its goods or services. Furthermore, these terms could make it difficult for consumers to recognize the brand which they associate with the quality of products. Hence, choosing a generic term could be detrimental for both entrepreneurs and consumers.

However, determining whether a trademark falls under the category of generic terms is not easy. Some entrepreneurs combine generic terms with others terms, but there are further legal considerations in selecting this method. To avoid legal pitfalls and to have a brand that is legally enforceable for the business, it can be helpful for entrepreneurs to consult with a trademark attorney with experience in assisting with choosing legally enforceable trademarks.

By Heliane Fabian