Examples of Legally Strong and Weak Trademarks

A trademark must possess certain characteristics and the law defines these attributes. The examples below will help explain the legal attributes needed for great trademark legal protection.

I express no opinion on the business value of these trademarks. However, trademark laws are generally designed to give greater legal support to unique marks and there is probably a connection between a legally strong trademark and a commercially useful trademark. In addition, unique marks and legally strong marks generally score better in terms of rememberabilty in potential customers’ minds. Here’s a PDF with the examples below displayed in a table.


High Level of Legal Protection

The best trademarks are arbitrary or capricious, meaning there is no connection between the word and any feature of the product or service. Some of these words are newly created (“coined”) or neologisms.

These trademarks have a high level of legal protection.


Mark – Wii

Product – Electronic gaming device

Reason – Has no meaning in connection with persona electronic games; stylized or invented word

Mark – Adobe

Product – Software

Reason – No connection between word and product/service

Mark – Vimeo

Product – Video sharing website

Reason – The trademark is an anagram for the word "movie." It's also a combination of the words "Video" and "me."


Mark – Billabong

Product – Surf, skate and snowboard clothing

Reason – Word has no connection to the product. “Billabong” is an Australian English word meaning a small lake, specifically an oxbow lake, a section of still water adjacent to a river, cut off by a change in the watercourse

Mark – Wiki______

Product – Web articles database

Reason – Hawaiian for “quick”

Mark – Radio Flyer

Product – Children’s toy wagons

Reason – These words have nothing to do with any features of the products. The company was created in the 1930’s when the owner observed that American was enamored of airplanes and radios


Mark – Blackberry

Product – Personal Digital Assistant

Reason – Has no meaning in connection with PDA’s

Mark – Starbucks

Product – Coffee

Reason – Has no meaning in connection with coffee. (It was derived from the character “Starbuck” in Moby Dick by Herman Melville; this name was chosen after the name “Pequod” (the whaling ship in the novel) was rejected.)

Mark – Firefox

Product – Internet web browser

Reason – This combination of fire and fox have no meaning


Mark – 2llama

Product – Technology company

Reason – Just a very arbitrary name

Mark – Oxygen

Product – In-Line Skates

Reason – It is an ordinary English word, but it is a good trademark when used on this product. It connotes a good thing- air and connotes fitness. It’s distinctive and useful because this mark not in use for competing products

Mark – Daisy

Product – BB Guns

Reason – Interesting disassociation between the product attributes and the (opposite) connotation from a dainty flower


Mark – Webvan

Product – Web-Based Home Delivery of Food Items

Reason – This unique combination of “web” and “van” describes some attribute of the firm’s service, yet it is still a unique trademark because it is a unique combination of words

Mark – TiVo

Product – TV Video Recorder

Reason – Good name, good logo

Mark – Exxon

Product – Gasoline

Reason – This word has no meaning expect for its use as a trademark. A computer program reportedly created this trademark


Mark – Quark

Product – Graphics Software

Reason – Capricious name; a sub-atomic molecular structure that is the building block of matter

Mark – Whirlpool

Product – Home Appliances

Reason – Describes a product attribute

Mark – Aer Void

Product – Vacuum containers

Reason – Name suggests product characteristic plus misspelling of “air”


Mark – Pixelgate

Product – Graphics design firm

Reason – Combination of stock-in-trade (pixels) and allusion to gateway to unnamed something (greater understanding of product or service?); unregistered

Mark – Tokelan

Product – Wine

Reason – Translated from Greek means “most beautiful” & Pronounced toke-ay-lawn

Mark – ACCO

Product – Office Products

Reason – Acronyms are ordinarily weaker trademarks, but this one is probably better than most acronyms


Mark – Callaway, Rawlings, Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton

Product – Retail brands

Reason – Personal names are good if they are distinctive in their product category.

Mark – Patagonia

Product – Outerwear

Reason – For their avid outdoor product users, a positive association with a very rugged place

Mark – Apple

Product – Electronics

Reason – This common English word has nothing to do with the product, thus securing a wide range of protection in this product category. If it is used properly, it can have high protection.


Mark – Seagate

Product – Electronics

Reason – In the English language, but has no association with a product attribute

Mark – Peak

Product – Antifreeze

Reason – This word could be used for any product or service. As long as you are the first to use it in your category you can be ok; contrarily, there are downsides to such ordinary English words if a competitor tries to misuse the competition’s trademark in their advertising

Mark – Navigant, Accenture (derivation: accent on the future)

Product – Consulting Services

Reason –Unique; combination of syllables of separate words; directional sounding


Mark – Bearing Point

Product – Consulting

Reason – Directional sounding, which is a good thing for a strategy management consulting firm. Putting these 2 common English words together creates a good trademark; this large, public consulting firm will create good rights by their continuing, national use of the mark

Mark – Bain, Sapient, Razorfish, Cosential, Wind2 (Software), Axium

Product – Services

Reason – Unique, invented trademarks. These trademarks have nothing to do with any attribute or “connection” with a value or concept of the services

Mark – Lyostat, Comil, Actonel, Zocor

Product – Pharmaceutical

Reason – Completely abstract, artificially-created names


Mark – Tower Records

Product – Music retailer

Reason – "Tower" has nothing to do with music and therefore it is considered “arbitrary”, which is good; “Records” will add no trademark protection because is it descriptive and generic

Mark – Rose

Product – Pest Control

Reason – Arbitrary, capricious use of an ordinary English word results in a protectable trademark

Mark – Ray-Ban

Product – Eyeglasses

Reason – Describes a feature of the product (descriptive), but a good trademark because of the unique combination of these two words


Mark – Wayfarers

Product – Eyeglasses (from Ray-Ban)

Reason – Glasses that make you an adventurous traveler

Mark – Gatorade

Product – Beverages

Reason – While “ade” is generic, combining it with the unexpected “gator” creates a good mark (the product was invented by a University of Florida professor/researcher)

Mark – Oreo

Product – Snack Food

Reason – Completely arbitrary mark; much better than, for example, “Nabisco Butter Cookies” or “Chocolate Wafer Sandwiches” (I made this up)


Mark – Freescale

Product – Semiconductors

Reason – Unique; good

Mark – Sun Rocket

Product – Voice over IP phone services

Reason – Completely arbitrary

Mark – Vonage

Product – Voice Over IP Phone Service

Reason – Invented word by joining two never-before-combined syllables


Mark – Kinko’s

Product – Media Reproduction

Reason – Has no meaning in English

Mark – Bon Ami

Product – Cleansers

Reason – Translates in English to “my good friend”

Mark – Axe

Product – Personal care products for men

Reason – Arbitrary, capricious use of an ordinary English word results in a protectable trademark


Suggestive Trademarks

These trademarks suggest a feature or benefit of the product, creating a positive association between the trademark and the product. Suggestive trademarks are good trademarks, but suggestive trademarks are not as strong as arbitrary or capricious trademarks.

Mark – Off!

Product – Insect Repellent

Reason – Keeps bugs “off” you

Mark – Minute Clinic

Product – CVS Pharmacy on-house medical services

Reason – An alliteration that conveys an important feature of the service- speed

Mark – Forerunner

Product – Automobiles

Reason – Double meaning- advanced thinking and “four” for four wheel drive


Mark – Propel

Product – Energy Drinks

Reason – Propels you forward

Mark – Aqua Velva

Product – Men’s cologne

Reason – Water + smooth

Mark – Cayenne

Product – Automobile model

Reason – Association between a pepper and a high performance automobile is excellent


Mark – Nautica

Product – Apparel

Reason – Association between a pepper and a high performance automobile is excellent Nautica Apparel Create a positive association for the product with sailing and the positive presumed demographics of people who sail (analogy: POLO)

Mark – La Playa

Product – Resorts

Reason – Translated from Spanish is “beach”; plus it contains the word “play” in English which has a positive connotation

Mark – Rhode Gear

Product – Bicycle Equipment

Reason – Play on the word “road”- a good connection for serious bikers


Mark – Lexus

Product – Luxury Automobiles

Reason – “Lex” close to the “lux” in luxury but otherwise meaningless and “us” sound creates connection with the “u” in “ury” (luxury)

Mark – Acura

Product – Automobiles

Reason – “Acur” connotes meaning of “accurate”- an important concept in a car and “a” unique end of word to differentiate it from any other trademark

Mark – Viagra

Product – Pharmaceutical

Reason – “Vi” from vitality is a positive association for this product


Mark – Rold Gold

Product – Pretzels

Reason – A capricious spelling of “Rolled” connoting the rolled pretzel and rhyming “gold” (an alliteration); alliterations are very positive trademarks because of the rhyming

Mark – Febreze

Product – Web-Based Fabric Softener

Reason – Positive association between product performance and word “breeze”; “breeze” is misspelled to create uniqueness

Mark – Webvan

Product – Home Delivery of Food Items

Reason – This unique combination of “web” and “van” describes some attribute of the firm’s service, yet it is still a unique trademark because it is a unique combination of words


Mark – Encore

Product – TV Programming

Reason – Has a positive connotation with the happy feeling in the audience which leads to an “encore”; probably also meant to have an association with the idea of replaying the movie in a TV broadcast format

Mark – Smithereen

Product – Pest Control

Reason – Borrows from the colloquialism “smash it to smithereens?

Mark – Visa

Product – Credit Card

Reason – The word conveys impression of the product gives you special access from an authoritative legal source (the government)


Mark – Nickelodeon

Product – Entertainment

Reason – A positive association between the antiquated juke box playing many songs and a broadcast entertainment company providing TV programming

Mark – Kalahari

Product – Indoor Water Park in the Wisconsin Dells

Reason – Exotic sounding like a sophisticated resort in a desirable vacation spot

Mark – Sub Zero

Product – Refrigerators

Reason – Connotes cold temperature


Mark – Baymont

Product – Hotel, Motel

Reason – Bay connoting water, mont connoting a common suffix in a town name

Mark – Klondike (with polar bear logo)

Product – Frozen ice cream bars

Reason – Association with cold weather area and frozen ice cream

Mark – Picasa

Product – Photo cataloging services and software

Reason – It is a combination of “pic” and a formative from “Picasso”.– brilliant (Google did not create this but purchased this brand name)


Mark – Lee Ann Rimes

Product – Singer

Reason – Her stage name; she misspelled “rhymes”, which has a connection with her vocation as a singer

Mark – WhiteSmoke

Product – Grammar-correcting software

Reason – Perhaps trademark owner intends a connection between “smoke” and changing meaning the smoke changes form and evaporates

Mark – CamelBak

Product – Water Bottles

Reason – Implies positive water holding capabilities of a camel


Mark – PopTarts

Product – Breakfast food

Reason – Implies it is a tart (a positive association significant pastry category not really earned given the lower quality of the product compared with a fresh-baked good) combined with “popping” from the toaster

Mark – Puffs

Product – Facial tissues

Reason – Connotes softness, a positive characteristic for this product

Mark – Tom-Tom

Product – GPS device

Reason – Connotes the communication from a tom-tom drum, a traditional form of communication among certain peoples


These trademarks are not distinctive because they use common words from English or common words used for products or services in their industries:

Performance, National, Pro, Value, United and Premier

Plain words in common use in ordinary English langue use usually make weak trademarks. Because of their common, everyday use, the law will usually not allow these words to be used in commerce to exclusively describe one product or service or function as a trademark. And, if you don’t have exclusive use you will not have strong legal rights. This will make it harder to prevent a competitor from using your trademark and may allow your competitors to poach sales from you or pass themselves off as you.

Marks which contain a word or element that describes a feature or quality of the product are also poor trademarks. This is because this descriptive term by law should be allowed to be used by users of the product without the owner claiming exclusive rights in the term. However, there is a fine line between a descriptive mark which usually has limited legal protection and a suggestive mark which cleverly alludes to a feature of the product. As contrasted to a descriptive mark, the suggestive mark requires the product user to go through a two-step intellectual exercise before realizing the connection between the trademark term and the product feature.


  1. Your trademark and trade name (your company name (e.g., with the “Inc.”) can and should be two different words.

  2. Do not include the generic product type in the trademark.

    1. For example, the Stairmaster Company of stair-climbing exercise equipment has the product name in the trademark. Another example is Boston Chicken, which spent millions to re-name itself to Boston Market a short time after its launch. Now, when the owner wants to expand its product line, their trademark story is complicated.

    2. Customers can be confused- do they have other products like free weights or elliptical equipment or just stair climbing exercise equipment? Can I only get chicken there?

  3. Do not succumb to what is cool or trendy now. In 2 or 5 years, it may not be cool.

    1. Do not use today’s business jargon in a trademark. “Re-engineering” or “paradigm” used to be cool, now these terms are not cool. Do not let your trademark become uncool or dated. A 2008 example? “DNA”.

  4. The first job of any new mark is to be legally different enough from any pre-existing mark.

  5. For mainstream, consumer products (laundry detergent, milk) especially, it is usually beneficially to use a societally-accepted, safe word association. This is especially true for company that sells in multiple countries.

  6. The trademark should be rememberable.

  7. If the product is important, it is beneficial to secure the identical domain name. Go to whois.sc. If the domain is identical to the full trademark, that is excellent but hard to do today.

Talk to us

If we can help you or you would just like to talk to us, please call our office or send us an e-mail. References are available upon request.

We wish you the best of luck with your business!


Charlie Signature Small.png

Charles B. Brown

(847) 784-1300
www.corplaw.com | charlie@corplaw.com
400 Central Avenue, Suite 150, Northfield, Illinois 60093

Charlie concentrates in IP (Intellectual Property) Law. Charlie has 37 years of experience as an accomplished attorney for businesses in diverse industries nationally and internationally, including as in-house counsel where he came to fully understand how to serve business clients best. He has served in leadership roles at the Chicago Bar Association and Association of Corporate Counsel and writes on IP topics.

He is active in North Shore civic affairs. He likes sailing, softball, platform tennis, old boys rugby, mountain climbing, and working on his 1967 Cutlass Supreme convertible with 206,000 miles.

Charles B. Brown