Intellectual Property:

Terms that Cannot be Protected

Generic or merely descriptive terms that do not have a secondary meaning are terms that are not protectable by themselves. Generic terms are commonly used words that identify goods or services but are not specific to a particular source. Usually, you cannot register a generic word as a trademark.

Words can be separated into five categories. Stronger words can be registered as trademarks, while weaker terms offer no trademark protection. The categories, ranked from strongest to weakest include:

  • Fanciful marks, which are made up words that do not relate to the goods being described
  • Arbitrary marks, which are existing words that offer no meaning to the described goods
  • Suggestive marks, which are words that suggest relation but don’t describe the product themselves
  • Descriptive marks, which describe either the product or characteristic of the product
  • Generic terms, which are words that are the recognized and accepted description of a class of services or goods

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