Descriptive and Generic Terms in Trademarks - Daniel Ross & Associates

Descriptive and Generic Terms

When applying for a trademark, the general rule of thumb is to stay away from generic and descriptive words, and phrases.

Trademark law reserves certain words and phrases for the public domain, and does not let anyone have exclusive rights to use them because businesses that provide these goods and services need to be able to describe them.

Generic Trademarks

A generic term directly names or states the product or the service itself. A generic term will never be protected by trademark registration; it will always get rejected.

Descriptive Trademarks

If a word or term is deemed descriptive, then it describes a quality or characteristic of the good or service, and those generally get rejected, too. But there are some circumstances and workarounds to get a descriptive term approved. If you’ve been using the term for enough time, you can gain what’s called “acquired distinctiveness,” but you need to show certain proof of use. Typically the statutory mark for acquired distinctiveness is five years of continuous commercial use.

There are some qualifications, but in general, it is recommended to stay away from generic and descriptive marks.

Learn More About Trademark Law

If you are applying for a trademark, ensure you’re on the right path with the attorneys at Daniel Ross & Associates. To schedule a free consultation to discuss how your trademark needs, please call (216) 307-5590, or get in touch using our online intake form.


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