What Is a Suggestive Mark and How Do I Protect It?

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Question:

I have been looking for new designs for my new company and have run into something called a suggestive mark. What is this and what kind of trademark protection do I get?

 

Answer:

A suggestive mark alludes to or hints at (without describing) the nature or quality of the goods. For example, Roach Motel suggests, without describing, the nature of a trap for catching insects. Coppertone suggests, without describing, the results of using a brand of suntan oil. Rain Dance does not describe a car wax but it suggests that rain will "dance" off the wax. Like fanciful (made up terms) and arbitrary marks (words that do not match the goods – for example Arrow for shirts or Apple for computers) , suggestive marks are also inherently distinctive and can be registered without further evidence that consumers associate the mark with the goods (referred to as secondary meaning).

Suggestive marks are close cousins to descriptive marks. A descriptive mark describes a product or service, or its purpose, function, use, nature, quality, characteristics, ingredients or geographic origin. For example, Beef & Brew describes what is available at a restaurant. Vision Center describes a place where eyeglasses can be purchased. Bufferin describes a product that consists of buffered aspirin. Shake 'N Bake describes the method of using a food product. Chap Stick describes a stick-shaped compound used for chapped lips. All of these marks are descriptive of goods or services. Marks that are merely descriptive will only obtain protection if the trademark owner can prove secondary meaning.

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