A trademark is a legal protection that covers a word, phrase, symbol, logo, design or combination thereof that represent a source of goods and services. There are five types of trademarks available for products: arbitrary mark, generic mark, fanciful mark, suggestive mark and descriptive mark.

1. Arbitrary Mark

An arbitrary mark may include a term, phrase or combination of words that have a well-known meaning but a different meaning. Apple, the electronics and computer manufacturer, is the best example of an arbitrarily marked mark. Although the term apple is familiar, the mark does not have any connection to the general meaning.

2. Generic Mark

A generic trademark is not eligible for trademark protection unless it contains more specific information. If a generic mark like would be protected by trademarks, it would limit all other ventures doing the same business. A generic mark must describe the qualities, characteristics or ingredients of the product your business sells to qualify it for trademark status.

3. Fanciful Mark

A fanciful mark is a term, name or logo that is distinct from any other existing. This category is easiest to obtain trademark protection as it doesn’t usually compete with any other or becomes too generic. Kodak and Nike are examples of fanciful trademarks. These words have no common meaning, so trademarking them won’t infringe upon the rights of companies offering similar products.

4. Suggestive mark

A suggestive mark indicates something about the product or service. This category of marks is usually protected without the need for a secondary meaning. The term “suggestive”, which means the customer must think creatively to determine what goods or services the company offers. A great example is Netflix which is a combination of net and flix. Net is derived from the internet and flix is a shortened version of the word flicks which means movie.

5. Descriptive mark

A descriptive mark is used to identify one or more features of a product. It does not describe the product. It must contain unique elements that make it eligible for trademark protection. These include secondary meanings such as the amount and method of advertising, sales volume, length and mode of use of the mark, results of consumer surveys, and other characteristics. Consumers must be able to recognize the mark and associate it with the brand. It should change from the brand it represents to the person the mark represents in order to qualify as a descriptive marking.

Service Mark

While a service mark is identical to a trademark, it distinguishes companies that provide services rather than products. Service marks still fall under the legal trademark laws, and must be registered at the USPTO. The McDonald’s service mark is a common example of a service marks. It represents the services offered.

Trade Dress

A trade dress is a way to identify a product or company. It includes packaging elements, décor items, design, shapes, store layout and similar concepts. Trade dress protection is available for product features that don’t fall under the protection of a trademark. If a consumer is able to identify a specific feature of a product with a brand or company, then trade dress protection may be available. Listerine mouthwash is one example of a trade dress. Because of its unique flat shape, customers searching for Listerine are able to identify it easily. This bottle was granted protection.

What is the importance of Trademark Types?

It is important to know the differences between trademark types when applying for trademark protection. It will be difficult for your logo, phrase, word or symbol to be granted legal protection if it is too generic. You might consider changing your mark to make it easier to qualify.

A trademark is a way for consumers to identify the source of goods and services. There was confusion on the market before trademark laws were more strictly regulated. It was difficult for consumers to recognize the source of goods or services, making it difficult to build brand loyalty.

In 1945, the Lanham Act was passed. It provided more protection for trademarks registered in the United States. A trademark is granted to a person or business providing legal rights and protection for them. The trademark allows only the owner to copy, make, profit from, or use the mark. Federal courts allow trademark holders to sue anyone who infringes the trademark.

Use of Types of Trademarks: Reasons to Be Considered

Before you file a trademark application, evaluate your mark to determine the most appropriate category. Talk to an experienced lawyer in trademark law if you’re unsure if your mark is too generic. Before you spend your time and money filing an USPTO application, it’s better to discover if your mark is too generic. Knowing the differences between them will help you decide if you should make any changes to your mark prior to applying for a trademark.


You don’t have to file any trademark application by a specific deadline. Even if the application is not approved, you can still use the mark even if you do not intend to register it. Before finalizing registration, some companies use TM or SM symbols on their trademarks.

TM and SM symbols do not have any legal significance. However, they can stake claim to a trademark. If a competitor notices your mark on your product or packaging, it raises awareness about your intention to use the mark to represent your company.

Once your mark is approved, you can begin using the registered symbol. This symbol is subject to legal restrictions. You can only use it once your application has been approved. There is no deadline to file a trademark application. However, it is important that you act quickly once your design, phrase or symbol, logo, word, or symbol are finalized. If someone else files a request for a similar trademark, the filing date is important.

What Happens if You Do Not Understand Trademark Types?

You will waste your time and money if you apply for trademark protection using a generic name. You should fully understand each type to be able to choose the one likely to be protected under trademark laws.

Common Mistakes

A common mistake business owners make is to assume that the registration of the trade name will protect the trademark associated with their company. Both are separate legal entities and are governed by distinct legal entities. The majority of state-issued business registrations do not offer protection against someone using the same or identical name. You will need to file for a trademark if you want to stop other companies or people from using your business name.

This registration does not give you trademark protection. If you haven’t checked the USPTO’s database of registered trademarks, it could infringe another trademark. You might be required to give up your domain name if it infringes on another trademark. You cannot trademark ornamental design elements or functionality. You will need to file for a design patent in order to protect the unique design elements of a product. Utility patents cover functional aspects and construction of products.