Selection of a Trade Mark

The following is a guide to the selection of a trade mark which, in an increasingly crowded market place, help distinguish one business from another and provide a competitive edge.


Time spent at the outset in analyzing your business, your product and your market will pay off in later years. Is your product a consumer item sold to a broad segment of the public for every day use, or is it a highly specialised item sold to a narrow market? A mark appropriate for one market might not be appropriate for another. Also of relevance is how your mark will reach the market. The amateur chef preparing an elegant meal with a branded food processor will most likely not know the brand of the electric motor which supplies the power; and the motor manufacturer probably does not care. However, if you are a zipper manufacturer, you will undoubtedly want women to remember your mark and, for example, to insist that dresses they buy have fasteners bearing your trade mark.

Distinctive symbols identifying and distinguishing goods or services are eligible for trade mark status. Symbols which are not distinctive, such as generic words (e.g. cassette, video recorders, chair), are not eligible. Any one can use these words.


It should distinguish your goods or services from those of your competitors.

Your trade mark should be unique. It should indicate that all goods bearing that trade mark come from or are sponsored by your company. The purchaser need not know the name or location of your company, but he is entitled to rely on the fact that your trade mark, like an individual’s signature, is exclusively the mark of one person. If the trade mark you select is confusingly similar to a mark already in use by another company, on the same goods or on goods the public might expect would be made or sponsored by you, you have cause for concern. Since the mark does not distinguish your goods, it cannot be your trade mark. Furthermore, you may well be liable as an infringer.

It should serve as guarantee of consistent quality

A trade mark should assure the customer that all goods which bear it will always be of the same high quality the customer has come to expect. It guarantees the customer that he will get the same satisfaction from his next purchase of the product as he did from the last.

It should help to advertise and sell products

The trade mark selected by you should be a goods salesman, a congenial symbol with sufficient drawing power to persuade the customer your product is desirable. If you choose a coined word like EXXON, its selling power must come from the advertising put behind it and the reputation for quality your products will acquire in time. It may have a striking appearance or sound, but initially it is merely an eye catcher without a message. Many prefer this type of mark because it is easier to enforce and protect against imitators. Others believe a trade mark should function as a compressed advertisement and should make a statement. They prefer a mark which conveys a favourable connotation or suggestion at the outset, such as FORTUNE for a business magazine, ENHANCE for hair moisturisers and MAIDENFORM for women’s lingerie, and so forth. Such marks may carry a cachet of status, fashion and/or prestige and may also suggest some characteristic of the product or benefit to be derived from using it.



Short, one syllable marks such as JOY, CHEER, JAY’S, BIC, FAB and NAIR are easy to say, to remember and to display. The public preference for short trade marks convinced the Coca-Cola Company to adopt and use the abbreviated trade mark COKE, which had been coined by the public. Similarly, Budweiser was abbreviated to BUD.

Easy to Remember

This is a must. Its importance is obvious. The aim of your advertising and promotion is to focus the consumer’s attention on your product. This effort would be sabotaged by the use of a mark that was difficult to recall after that initial impression.

Easily readable and pronounceable

Having to promote a trade mark by adding its phonetic spelling, e.g. BENGUE (“Ben-Gay”) probably adds to the promotional burden. This extra effort may pay off in fixing the name in the mind of the consumer, but would it not be better to start out with a trade mark that is easy to say and to read?

Easily adaptable to any media

Your trade mark must quickly and unmistakeably identify your products in any media. Unless the radio listener is able to visualise the correct spelling of your trade mark, you may lose a potential customer. On television, as on the shelves of a supermarket, the visual impact of your mark is extremely important.

No unpleasant connotations

It is better to identify potential sales resistance before you put advertising money behind your new trade mark. You can usually discover it by pre-testing the trade mark – experimenting on the public by surveys or other market research.

Suitable for export

Does your trade mark have any unfortunate meaning in a foreign language? Will foreigners have difficulty pronouncing it? Can it be registered abroad?

Lends itself to pictorialisation

“One picture is worth a thousand words”. The promotional possibilities of a trade mark and its mnemonic impact will be greatly increased if it can be pictured, as well as written and spoken. It is certain that JOCKEY as a word trade mark for underwear, hosiery and sports wear will be more easily remembered by the representation of a jockey on the products and in advertising.


Selection of an appropriate suggestive term can contribute more to the promotional function of the trade mark than any other single factor. Yet there is no area in the selection of a trade mark that involves more risk, unless it be the risk of selecting a trade mark that resembles another’s trade mark. Imagination can make or break a trade mark. There are probably more bad trade marks selected because of the anticipated advertising or selling value, than for any other reason.

Subtleties should be the measuring stick in choosing a trade mark which will convey the imagery behind it. Study your product, what it does, who will use it and what the customer looks for in a product such as yours. Imagine yourself in the customer’s shoes. What would persuade you to buy the product? If you were a man looking for a shaving cream and skin supplies, wouldn’t the name CLINIQUE attract you? And don’t JOY, INTERLUDE and SCOUNDREL strike you as excellent trade marks for perfumes?

_Should you require assistance in securing protection of your brands by registering them as trade marks, please do not hesitate to contact us.