Legal Strength of Trademarks
Not all trademarks receive the same level of protection. Some marks may be denied court protection altogether, while others may be granted only limited registration and protection. However, even when a mark is capable of protection by the courts, and can be registered on the Principle Register, there still exists a continuum of protection available. The protection afforded is directly linked to the legal strength of the trademark.
Generally speaking, trademarks with higher levels of protection permit the owner to enforce through the court system their exclusive right to use their mark against a broader variety of similar marks, for a broader variety of goods or services. Thus, when you are selecting a mark, you will want to consider choosing one that will provide the most legal strength for your business.
The following classification system for trademark strength is widely recognized as distinguishing between the level of distinctiveness a mark can obtain. Generally speaking, the more distinctive the mark, the stronger is the protection available. This scheme was originally developed for the purpose of classifying lingual marks, but has since been viewed as a model for trademark protection in non-lingual marks as well. Nonetheless, the following definitions continue to be cast largely in terms of lingual marks. Analogies to non-lingual marks should be made whenever they fit.
The continuum of legal srenth is as follows (from least to most strong):
Generic | Descriptive | Arbitrary | Coined ("Fanciful")