Can I Trademark a Product Name?

Product names can be trademarks when they are used repeatedly to identify your business as the producer of that product.  

When you go to start a new product line, if you want to use a unique product line name that is not just descriptive of the product, you want to start with trademark research. This is true  whether or not you want to pursue a trademark on your product name. Why?

Many people have come before you in your line of trade. You may be newly selling this product or product line, but others have been selling for years before you. This means there is a high likelihood that someone who came before you in a similar line of trade has already thought of and trademarked the product name you want to use. 

Unfortunately, more often than not, the first product name you want to use is “already taken,” meaning already federally trademarked. 

If start advertising a new product name you love and do not do your research, you may get a cease-and-desist letter from a person who has already registered the trademark. You may have to cease your use, immediately.  Well, there goes all of the money, time, thought, and branding you put behind that name you loved but did not research. 

No budget for trademark research?  One option to avoid infringement on a product line name you do not want to protect is to intentionally use a product name that no one can trademark. 

Under trademark law (with some exceptions regarding secondary meaning registrations), words that are very descriptive of the product or its features may not be registered as trademarks. 

For example, if you sell coffee beans you may name your product “Coffee Beans.” Neither you nor your competitors will be allowed to file a trademark on the term “Coffee Beans.”  This is because you all need to use the term to be able to sell the product. A generic or descriptive product name is not likely to draw a cease-and-desist letter from a competitor. This is why, if you are not going to research and pursue a trademark on your product name, it may be good to use a product name that is generally safe from litigation.

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