Skip to Content

4 Types of Trademarks that you need to know about…

November 18, 2020 General


There are four different types of trademarks- and some are better than others when it comes to acquiring a registration. What are the four types? They are: Generic, Descriptive, Suggestive, and Arbitrary or Fanciful. Don’t worry, I’ll explain more below.

Generic Trademarks

Generic Trademarks are marks that use everyday common terms that you are likely to find everywhere and that everybody has a right to use. An example would be using the name “CAR” for an automobile shop. This would prevent anyone else from using that word, and is unlikely to be accepted by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).

Descriptive Trademarks

Descriptive marks use words that merely describe the good or service. This could be a mark that includes the color, smell, or ingredients of a good or service. An example of this would be using “SOFT” to describe towels. These marks can generally not be registered unless they acquire some distinctiveness. This means, generally, that the mark must be used for at least five years in commerce in order to acquire distinctiveness. For example, UPS has trademarked the brown color they use because it is distinctive. Attempting to register a mark under distinctiveness is not in your best interest, however, as policing a mark like this is difficult and time-consuming, and must be done while trying to acquire distinctiveness.

Suggestive Trademarks

Suggestive marks, as the name implies, suggest the qualities or attributes of a good or service. These differ from descriptive marks because they require some thought or perception on the part of the consumer. An example of this is GREYHOUND buses. Suggestive marks are strong marks though and are the next best choice next to Fanciful or Arbitrary marks.

Fanciful/Arbitrary Marks

These marks are composed of made-up words that have little or nothing to do with the good or service. These are the strongest marks and are afforded ultimate protection. The perfect example of this is APPLE for computers.

Whenever possible, one should try to come up with a fanciful or suggestive trademark to guarantee better success with registration.

Need help determining if your business name fits into one of these categories? Contact Nicole today at (971) 350-8516.

Want to learn more about trademarks? Check out the USPTO website here: