A woman placing her finger against her lips indicating to keep a secret

Some of the secrets to create a successful name to be trademarked

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. Famous trademarks are often protected by multiple trademark registrations across different countries to prevent copying and counterfeiting.
  2. Many successful brands have simple, unique names that are easy to pronounce and not descriptive of their industry. They also register trademarks for their names, logos, and slogans and use them consistently.
  3. Brands should be careful to use their trademarked names as adjectives to describe their products and not as the product name itself to avoid losing trademark rights.

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Characteristics of well-known trademarks

Famous trademarks have characteristics that businesses can utilise to strengthen their brand.

Popular brands today are usually safeguarded by trademark registrations in multiple countries. These businesses, which have become internationally iconic, must take legal action to protect their products and names from imitation as a result of the success they’ve achieved. All renowned trademarks had humble origins before becoming eminent companies that provide excellent or revolutionary services/products. When seeking to secure your brand name with a trademark you can gain insight into how these successful firms succeeded by studying them closely.

Every area of business has iconic trademarks that are easily recognisable. These may be global corporations with instantly familiar logos, names and colours. Here’s a list featuring some famous brands in four more categories:

Many famous brands have similar characteristics.

The brand is one word

Many of the world’s most powerful brands have only one word in their name, such as Johnson & Johnson and Mercedes Benz.

The product name is random or fictitious

Powerful brands have non-descriptive, uncommon monikers like Apple, Starbucks and Uber. The sole exception may be Swatch which includes its product’s name in the title. All other high-profile names are not terms found within their respective industries.

Popular companies like Colgate, Cadbury, Kellogg’s, Nestle and Levi’s began as local businesses with names derived from their founders or inventors. Nowadays though many modern enterprises opt for words that are easier to pronounce internationally instead of personal monikers when creating a business name. Read our article 9 Tips for picking the perfect brand label.

Trademark owners register logos and names

Companies that value safeguarding their brand should obtain trademarks for all of its name, slogans, logos and any other wording used. Some even register more unconventional marks to protect distinctive shapes, colours or sounds as well as aromas. Our article on trademark protection demonstrates how registering a mark can help businesses prevent copycat competitors from taking advantage of them.

Trademarks are recognisable due to their consistent use

Well-known brands maintain the same iconic trademarks and brand guidelines, making sure it looks consistent everywhere. They also make sure to use those marks as adjectives for their products (not a product name) like Kodak films, Zippo lighters or Pampers nappies.

When a brand name is regularly used in place of its generic description, the trademark can be weakened and the owner may lose certain rights. This has happened with Aspirin, Escalator, Bubblewrap, Jet Ski, Weed Eater and Hoover. All these words were formally registered trademarks but have now come to describe any similar product.

Learning from renowned trademarks for use in your business

Launching a new business? Follow the same rules as famous trademarks. However, if your company’s trademark isn’t up to par, you don’t have to start over - strategies like improving distinctiveness can enhance current branding without complete rebranding.

Abbreviate lengthy names

Companies may choose to shorten or abbreviate their long name, like Skype (formerly Sky Peer-to-Peer) and Subway (originally Peter’s Super Submarines). Others use initials for the brand names such as KFC, HP, IBM DHL H&M M&Ms LG and IKEA.

Obtain a trademark for generic names that are in the form of a stylised logo

We think businesses should register a logo as a trademark. However, descriptive and generic marks can’t be registered because they must remain available to other traders in the same industry. To protect your brand, use stylised logos or distinctive icons for registration. Though you won’t have protection over words/slogans themselves unstylised, having a registered trademarked logo may discourage exact imitators.

Obtain a trademark for an identifiable slogan to differentiate your brand

Effective slogans can help brands stand out, even when the names are not extraordinary. Levi’s assures us “Quality never goes out of style,” Amex states “Don’t live life without it”, IMAX encourages people to “Think Big” and Airbnb lets their customers know they can “Belong Anywhere”. What is your business saying? Is trademarking a slogan possible?

Securing your name, logo and slogan with registered trademarks can help you to create a strong brand that stands out from the competition. It’s an important part of building your business as these are key assets that may become its most valuable resource.