How do you select a brand name or a trademark that’s gonna be strong and easy to register? Registering trademarks is the way that you protect your brand and the first thing you wanna do is avoid descriptive names. So the healthy food shop, when it’s a shop selling healthy food is very descriptive and the law says that you couldn’t have that kind of trademark because others might want to call it a healthy food shop or describe their healthy food shops as healthy food shops, so avoid descriptive names. Also, when you have descriptive names, it’s an invitation to others to be trying to use something very similar to what you’re doing, but not quite the same, sp it just causes problems.
So if you can’t have a descriptive name, what should you do? Well, one example would be having something completely different from what you offering and the best example is Apple for computers. It is in no way referencing the actual goods that are being sold, which is what makes it such a brilliant trademark, because nobody else will want that name unless they’re actually trying to trade off Apple’s reputation. Because it doesn’t describe computers, it’s very easy to use, it’s very strong because nobody can pretend that they came up with the idea themselves or wanted to use a similar name which is what makes a really strong trademark.
But what about using actual names such as for example, Lorna Jane? You can use names and if your personal name is the brand that you’re trying to build, you can do that. Some people sometimes forget to then register that personal name as a trademark, so don’t make that mistake and forget to protect it as a trademark. Sometimes people wanna use just a first name or a surname, but surnames on their own can be very problematic. If they’re more than a few dozen a couple of dozen with that surname, the trademark will be refused in many countries. That number of how many is too many differs from country to country, so in some countries, if there’s more than five people with that surname then it’s too much while other countries are more generous.
So what the government officials do before granting your trademark is they go and look at the electoral roll and they’ll actually see how many people share that name in that community or in that country. The reason for that is basically everybody should be able to trade under their own name and you’d be limiting people if you took that surname as a brand name. But some people do, such as McDonald’s which they got through massive use, and that’s a very special case. First names also can be very difficult to register which again is just because people should be allowed to use their own names. Other types of trademarks to steer clear of are geographic names.
Geographic names are tricky because if you want to predict the trademark it’s basically gonna stop others from being able to use that name. I can’t register Brisbane lawyers, because other lawyers in Brisbane are going to want to use the word Brisbane, and the word lawyers. You can register a place name, if it’s totally unconnected with the type of goods you’re wanting. For example, the Arctic if used for bananas would be fine because nobody in the Arctic is producing bananas. The logic surrounding this is basically what would other traders need to use in the course of their business, so geographic names unless it’s something completely unrelated, are generally not allowed.
The other tricky thing is that even if you find one of those names that are unrelated, you might still have an issue, because it may be considered deceptive. So if your bananas don’t come from the Arctic and you are calling them Arctic bananas, that could be considered to be deceptive. So geographic names are pretty tricky to get done.
The most important thing when selecting a true strong trademark is it needs to be distinctive. It needs to be something that relates to you and your business, your brand, your goods, your services and it needs to set you apart from others. But what about translations? I know that the word amanzi for example, is a Zulu word for water. So if you wanted to open a water plant in I don’t know the US and sell water under the word amanzi you might get it through because the examiner might not understand or might not realize that that’s a translation for the word water.
But if you’re unlucky enough to get a South African trademark examiner, they’re gonna know that it’s a translation and they’re not gonna let it through. Translations of more popular languages are routinely knocked back, so if you come up with something in Italian and it is very descriptive that won’t be allowed. So go for something distinctive, something uniquely you and that’s the best way to find the strongest brand or trademark. You get the best chance of getting it registered as a trademark and the best chance that nobody else would want to steal it from you, if it’s original and uniquely yours. My name is Cathryn Warburton and I am the Legal Lioness.