Choosing a Right Name for your Brand or Product

Zara, which is a Fast Fashion brand like Forever 21, boasts that it takes only 10 to 15 days for an initial product design to reach their retail stores through international manufacture and logistics. In this fast-paced environment where a product can be copied within a few days and mass produced, a superb product design and packaging warrants only half the success.

Turning a customer satisfaction from a superb quality and brand into a repurchase requires marking of the product with a unique and legally protected name. Such name is called a trademark, and it includes not only brand names and product names but also logo images, patterns, phrases, colors, and so on.

Then, how you decide what to use as a trademark? In this article, brand and product names are discussed.

1. Try to Stand Out from Competition

If your beauty supply store is named “ULTA” or “SEPHORA”, you are clearly in trouble. Likewise, you should avoid choosing a name that creates a confusion among consumers even if it is newly minted by you. “Rihanna’s Beauty” is a good example of such confusing tenor.

To prevent this kind of trouble, you must conduct a market research beforehand. By far the most effective and economical way is using internet search engines. You can use Google, Naver, and so on to scheme through names and marks that are used in your relevant market.

Avoid names that are similar to existing ones, and you should not use an identical one to other’s trademark at no circumstance.

2. Avoid Generic Names

Those words and phrases commonly used in your field of expertise lack the potential to be a good trademark.

Words such as “3X”, “16-inch”, “Braid”, “Ghana”, and “Pageboy” are general terminologies referring a number of goods in a single package, hair length, product type, hairdo, and so on. These general terminologies must be preserved for a free use among all commercial actors, and the trademark law accordingly limits trademark rights in such cases. Hence, you should not use generic terms unless it is necessary.

Oftentimes, using a general term is easy to memorize and facilitates a quick understanding of the characteristics of goods, but there are different ways to achieve the same.

For example, iPad, a tablet computer from Apple, Inc., uses the word “pad” to depict a “tablet computer”. Despite being a common word referring to a book of thin sheets, a “pad” was not associated with a tablet computer at the time.

This is how you should go when you are considering a common word for your trademark: distancing from its original meaning or using an untraditional spelling.

A billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk established a construction company specialized in tunneling, the Boring Company, in which boring means digging a tunnel. At the same time, it could also mean a company that are not interesting, poking some fun.

3. Unique Wording that Describes Your Product

When it comes to a Samsung smartphone Galaxy Note, the word “note” denotes that this particular type of smartphone has a bigger screen and includes a stylus pen. Again, “note” was a terminology that mobile computer industry did not find a common use, so this could be a good choice.

To explain further, let’s use an imaginary wig product, 100% Hand-tied Human Hair Pageboy Lace Wig as an example.

  • First of all, there are obvious characteristics of goods that a trademark needs not contain, such as the product type wig.
  • While 100% Hand-tied and Lace are important features of the product, the wording is a poor choice for a trademark. You can have a much stronger trademark by devising unique phrases such as Artisan’s Lacework, Tied-on-Lace, On-lace-handywork, and so on.
  • A fanciful name can be used instead of human hair. Keratin, a type of protein found in hair, is already familiar with consumers, and words like natural and organic can set a positive tone for your product.
  • Pageboy is a style that could be more efficiently and accurately illustrated by a drawing or photo. However, you may develop variety of unique wordings that sets your brand apart from the pack, such as Pagegirl instead of Pageboy and Peige instead of Page. Note, Peige may signal a specific color Beige.

While product names can tell what kind of product a good is, they should serve as a source identifier. In other words, consumers should be able to learn from which manufacturer, distributor, or seller a certain good is originated.

Ideally, a good trademark should tell a consumer that the product in her consideration is this “Artisan’s Lacework – Peige” among many other Pageboy style 100% human hair hand-tied lace wigs.

4. Tips

  • Be creative when naming a product. “Kodak” is a word created by its founder to serve as a trademark. Unique and easy to memorize.
  • A common word has a potential to be a great trademark. Office electronics company “Brother” transformed a common word into a great and distinctive trademark.
  • You may consider a terminology uncommon in the technical field or a spelling variation. Lyft, a Uber service competitor, uses a misspelled common word “lift” which means giving a ride.

Words or phrases including ARTISAN’S LACEWORK, TIED-ON-LACE, ON-LACE-HANDYWORK, KERATIN, NATURAL, ORGANIC, PAGEGIRL, and PEIGE, appearing in this article, were created to explain relevant legal concepts and may be inappropriate for use as a trademark. All content and information in this article does not constitute a legal counsel or advice at any circumstance.

By Youngsik Jeon, Esq.

J.D. Chicago-Kent College of Law; Georgia & Illinois Bar Member; USPTO Registered Patent Attorney