Why Brand Names Are Like Running Shoes: Poor Selection Can Cause Serious Injury

Don’t be one of those brand owners that has to learn the hard way. There is simply no reason to select brand names that are fundamentally incapable of winning the race. Recognizing that marks come in all different “shapes, colors and sizes” and, as a result, receive different levels of protection is a first step to building your brand name powerhouse. It can also be the difference between brand success and brand failure. Simply put, don’t fall victim to the “brand name trap.” Selecting the wrong brand name for your product can result in a “false start,” which can inevitably disqualify you from the race before it begins. Just as the difference between winning and losing a horserace can be fractions of a second, the difference between selecting a winning or losing brand name is a fine line that if not understood can result in brand failure.

If you were training for a marathon would you aimlessly select running shoes that couldn’t withstand a long and grueling race? Of course you wouldn’t. Then why do so many brand owners succumb to the temptation of aimlessly selecting trademarks that haven’t got a chance of taking their products over the finish line? Would you go out and purchase running shoes one week before a marathon? Hopefully you would purchase them well in advance so you have ample time to evaluate them, ensure they’re adequately comfortable and determine whether they're the "right" shoes for running a successful race. The same holds true for your trademarks. Aimlessly selecting your brand names without appreciating their varying levels of quality – or their blend of legal and marketing strength - can spell disaster for you, your company and its brands.

Trademarks range from terms that describe certain aspects of products to terms that are coined, such as the marks Kodak® and Xerox®. The types of marks consist of terms that are descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary or coined when used in connection with their associated products. Terms that are considered generic for certain products, such as “The Wine Company” for a company that sells wines and “Furniture.com” for a company that sells furniture online, can never be trademarks. The terms “trademarks” and “generic” are mutually exclusive. There is simply no such thing as a “generic trademark.”

Understanding the different levels of legal protection afforded by each type of trademark is an important aspect of the trademark selection process. Another aspect of the trademark selection process is appreciating marketing strength. When you combine the concepts of legal and marketing strength in your trademark selection process, you'll be well on your way to adopting brand names that have the potential for running ahead of the pack.