Verify the potential trademark is a Strong Trademark(TM) rather than a Weak mark. “A strong trademark is one that is rarely used by parties other than the owner of the trademark, while a weak trademark is one that is often used by other parties. The more distinctive a trademark, the greater its strength.” Exxon Corporation v. Texas Motor Exchange of Houston, 628 F.2d 500, 504 (5th Cir.1980).

The classification of a mark is generally a question of fact. Lane Capital Mgmt., Inc. v. Lane Capital Mgmt., Inc., 192 F.3d 337, 344 (2d Cir. 1999) (stating that the factual question is how the purchasing public views the mark). This distinctiveness classification is a very important one because of its effect on registerability.  A suggestive mark can be distinguished from a descriptive mark by considering (1) whether imagination is necessary to connect the mark to some characteristic of the product, (2) whether competitors use the term as a trademark or use the term to describe their product or service, and (3) whether the use of the term would deprive competitors of a way to describe their goods. Menashe v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., 409 F.Supp.2d 412, 423 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). (In the chart below the Merely Descriptive Matter is not registerable on the Principal Register unless it can acquire sufficient acquired distinctiveness or unless it is Suggestive to begin with.. Go Green!)

Why Not Have a Weak Trademark? What is a Weak Trademark?

Weak trademarks are given narrow protection. In re Hunke & Jochheim, 185 USPQ 188, 189 (TTAB 1975), the TTAB provided the following explanation regarding the strength of a mark on the Supplemental Register:

[R]egistration on the Supplemental Register may be considered to establish prima facie that, at least at the time of registration, the registered mark possessed a merely descriptive significance. This is significant because it is well established that the scope of protection afforded a merely descriptive or even a highly suggestive term is less than that accorded an arbitrary or coined mark. That is, terms falling within the former category have been generally categorized as "weak" marks, and the scope of protection extended to these marks has been limited to the substantially identical notation and/or to the subsequent use and registration thereof for substantially similar goods.

Why does having a Strong Trademark matter?

A Strong Trademark is a strong marketing tool. The International Trademark Association (INTA) in their Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Care About Trademarks calls a Trademark the Most Efficient Commercial Tool Ever Devised. A weak trademark is made up of words or symbols that others have a right to use so any one user has no exclusive rights to use.

An inherently distinctive trademark is stronger than a mark that is often used by others or that is merely descriptive, generic, or has other descriptiveness issues (i.e., being geographically descriptive, misdescriptive or others):

Note: Even though the USPTO does not ‘enforce’ trademark rights--A registered mark has several levels of protection through the USPTO:

What is involved with verifying a trademark for inherent strength?

Searching federal, state, and common law marks to see if the potential trademark or parts of the potential trademark are being used by third parties. One of the goals of a Strong Trademark Registration is to reserve the exclusive use of the potential trademark which means verifying that the potential trademark is not already used by prior users (registered  or unregistered).

Note: The USPTO does NOT determine the right to use a mark, only the right to register a trademark. The USPTO and the TTAB have no authority to determine the right to use, or the broader questions of infringement or unfair competition (TBMP §102.01), but only the right to register on the federal registers. However, the right to use a mark may be challenged by a prior user under the Lanham Act in an opposition to registration, a cancellation proceeding or in federal court. See Trademark Right To Use-Search and Clearance for more information.

Analyzing where the potential mark falls on a distinctiveness continuum. Distinctiveness is the opposite of descriptiveness for trademark purposes. The distinctiveness of trademarks varies along a continuum (often depending on how the trademark is used) from being highly distinctive (or inherently distinctive) to being merely descriptive or generic. Highly distinctive marks that are arbitrary, fanciful or suggestive are registrable on the USPTO Trademark Principal Register. Marks that are merely descriptive matter may potentially be considered to be registered on the Principal Register if they have acquired distinctiveness with Secondary Meaning (must be proven with evidence and generally at least 5 years of use). Generic marks (common or class names for goods or services) are not registerable as trademarks under either the Principal or Supplemental Register and receive no common law protection as trademarks.

See Why Should I Have A Trademark Attorney Answer My Office Action if you have already applied and been refused.

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Call 1-651-500-7590 or email for Responses to Office Actions; File or Defend an Opposition or Cancellation; Trademark Searches and Applications; Send or Respond to Cease and Desist Letters.

For more information from Not Just Patents, see our other sites:      

Evolved Means, Method or Format-Is your trademark registration obsolete?

Trademark e Search    Strong Trademark     Enforcing Trade Names

Common Law Trademarks  Trademark Goodwill   Abandoned Trademarks

Chart of Patent vs. Trade Secret

Patent or Trademark Assignments

Trademark Disclaimers   Trademark Dilution     TSDR Status Descriptors

Oppose or Cancel? Examples of Disclaimers  Business Cease and Desist

Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File    How to Trademark Search

Are You a Content Provider-How to Pick an ID  Specimens: webpages

How to Keep A Trade Secret

Decrease Your Vulnerability to Cancellation

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

Opposition Pleadings    UDRP Elements    

Oppositions-The Underdog    Misc Changes to TTAB Rules 2017

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark Integrity: Are your IP Assets Vulnerable?

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

Insurance Extension  Advantages of ®

How to Respond to Office Actions  Final Refusal

What is a Compact Patent Prosecution?

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register   $224 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Trademark-Request for Reconsideration

Why Not Just Patents? Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

TBMP 113 TTAB Document Service  TBMP 309 Standing

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion   DuPont Factors

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks?

 Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress  

Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

Differences between TEAS, TEAS RF and TEAS plus  

Extension of Time to Oppose?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

SCAM Letters Surname Refusal

What Does Published for Opposition Mean?

What to Discuss in the Discovery Conference

Descriptive Trademarks  

Likelihood of Confusion 2d  TMOG Trademark Tuesday

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part

Merely Descriptive Trademarks  

Merely Descriptive Refusals

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Register a Trademark-Step by Step  

Protect Business Goodwill Extension of Time to Oppose

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Change of Address with the TTAB using ESTTA

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Not Just Patents Often Represents the Underdog

 Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   

Section 2(d) Refusals

Zombie Trademark  

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register?

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

How to Respond Office Actions  

DIY Overcoming Descriptive Refusals

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

Trademark Searching Using TESS  Trademark Search Tips

Trademark Clearance Search   DIY Trademark Strategies

Published for Opposition     What is Discoverable in a TTAB Proceeding?

Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses

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