Types of Trademarks: How to Choose the Right One for Your Business

Trademarks play a vital role in differentiating businesses, protecting intellectual property, and establishing brand recognition. As trademarks can take various forms, understanding the different types of trademarks is essential for businesses looking to protect their unique identity. Let’s explore the various types of trademarks and with examples to better understand each of them.
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  1. Wordmarks: Wordmarks are trademarks that consist of text-only elements, such as words, letters, or numbers. They are used to protect the unique name or phrase that represents a brand. For example, GOOGLE, AMAZON, and MICROSOFT are all wordmarks that represent well-known companies.
  2. Logos: Logos are visual symbols or designs that represent a brand. They often include stylized images or shapes that convey the essence of a company’s identity. Examples of logo trademarks include the Nike swoosh, the McDonald’s golden arches, and the Apple logo.
  3. Combination Marks: Combination marks consist of both text and visual elements, such as a wordmark paired with a logo. These trademarks are versatile, as they protect both the text and visual elements of a brand. Examples include the Adidas logo combined with the brand name or the Starbucks logo featuring the mermaid alongside the company’s name.
  4. Slogans: Slogans are catchy phrases or taglines that convey a brand’s message or value proposition. These can also be trademarked to protect the brand from imitation. Examples of trademarked slogans include Nike’s “Just Do It” and McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It.”
  5. Product Packaging and Shapes: Product packaging and shapes refer to the visual appearance of a product or its packaging, which can be protected as a trademark if it is distinctive and recognizable. Examples include the unique shape of the Coca-Cola bottle and the red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes.
  6. Colors: Color trademarks protect specific colors or color combinations associated with a brand. To qualify for this protection, the color must be distinctive and strongly associated with the company. For example, Tiffany & Co.’s signature blue or Cadbury’s iconic purple.
  7. Sound Marks: Sound marks are unique sounds or jingles associated with a brand. They can be trademarked if they are distinctive and immediately recognizable. Examples include the NBC chimes, the Intel “Bong” jingle, or the MGM lion roar.
The trademarks can also be classified based on their level of distinctiveness and relation to the goods or services they represent. Here is a brief overview of these types of trademarks:
  • Fanciful Marks – Coined words/terms with no meaning outside the brand. These are highly distinctive and easily registrable. Example: BATA.
  • Arbitrary Marks – Commonly used words with no connection to the goods/services they represent. Example: Apple for computers.
  • Suggestive Marks – Marks that indirectly suggest goods/services and require imagination to discern the connection. Example: Microsoft (microcomputer software).
  • Descriptive Marks – Marks that describe characteristics (quality, quantity, kind, etc.) of the goods/services. These can be harder to register. Example: Clean-Plus for detergents.
  • Genericised Marks – Marks that were once exclusive trademarks but became generic over time due to widespread use. Example: Xerox for photocopying.

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