The Tug of War of Mark Strength

We often have clients asking about using weak versus strong marks.  This usually comes up because they want to use a descriptive mark and are asking why they shouldn’t.  There are legal arguments to be made, but I find the most useful framing is about how the client wants to spend their money.  And this is what I tell them:

You will spend money to make your brand stick in the minds of your target audience.  You have to do so.  The question is on what do you want to spend your money?

If it is a descriptive mark, you will spend less up front explaining what you do.  You don’t need an explainer because your proposed trademark helps to explain what is going on.  But we need to look at beyond the beginning.  Looking long term, you will always spend money ensuring that it is seen as a brand, as a signpost that “This is ME!”  The legal term is “designation of source of the product.”  And you will always spend money separating yourself from others with similarly descriptive names.  You are agreeing to spend time and money explaining not what your product is, but that your mark is *your* mark and not just a description of your product.  When your clients see that word or phrase, they know the product is connected to you, and not just a way you and your competitors use to tell them what you got. 

If it is a suggestive, arbitrary, or fanciful name, you will spend more money up front explaining who you are and what this new word means in this context. You have to explain “What is this? Who are they?”  But once the customer learns it, they know it is you.  Going forward, you spend to reinforce that message and what it means.  You reinforce your connection and strengthen your brand and the tie.  You don’t have to keep explaining that this isn’t a description and it is you, not your competitor.   

 Generally, the weaker descriptive marks cost more money in the long term, but less up front. A strong mark is costly at first, but it can create a return on that investment as the brand grows stronger as the connection in the minds of the clients grows stronger.  The spendind switches from teaching to enforcing.  Weak marks keep the same fight throughout: This is my trademark, not a description, and not my competitor.   It is really a question of how you want to spend your money and effort both now and in the long run.  I can’t tell you which is the right answer for you and your business, but the wrong answer is if you don’t think about it.

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