A common misconception by many entrepreneurs is that they should use a name that describes their products or services. Many want potential customers to immediately know what they are offering. Some use generic names because they want to generate more website traffic from key word searches.
If you want to build a scalable, highly valuable company, however, choosing a descriptive brand name is not a good strategy:
Trademark law does not protect generic or merely descriptive brand names.
A generic name is the common name for the goods or services. A name is descriptive if it immediately conveys an idea of the ingredients, qualities or characteristics of the goods or services.
The PTO will not register a generic or descriptive name as a trademark and the courts won’t stop other companies from using it. For example, Texas Digital Library couldn’t get a trademark for its name because the name merely describes a digital library in Texas. The name “Group Sales Box Office” was also was found to be descriptive of theater ticket sales services.
If you are building a scalable company that has to compete in national and international markets, trademark protection can be critical. In the dog-eat-dog world of business, you need to be able to stop companies who are selling similar goods and services from freeloading on your hard work and resulting goodwill to confuse potential customers.
A company with a federally registered trademark (or service mark) can stop cybersquatters and copycats from using confusingly similar domain names, product names, and business names.
It’s real legal power that even a tiny company can wield.
When choosing your brand name, you should ask:
Does this name merely describe my company’s goods or services?
If it does, then don’t use the name for your brand.
If in doubt whether your proposed name is merely descriptive, consult the dictionary definition of the words of your proposed name. If the dictionary definitions describe the goods or services that you are selling, the Trademark Office and courts won’t allow you to get legal protection for the mark. In short, if you want to build a scalable company, don’t waste your time using a generic or descriptive name.
See related posts:
Jill Hubbard Bowman is an intellectual property attorney who helps startups protect their IP and avoid infringement.
The information provided in this legal blog is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not submit questions or comments seeking legal advice or submit confidential information through this blog. By communicating through this blog, you understand and agree that the information will not be treated as confidential and the publisher has no duty to keep it confidential.