Trademark law has seen many substantive developments in 2020, with many cases in Europe, India and the United States coming into the limelight. However, the most recent ruling issued by the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) which touches on the issue of genericism — is perhaps one of the most talked about.
Starting with a brief overview of Trademark Law, trademarks provide your company with identity and distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. US trademark law (the Lanham Act of 1946) has established a system wherein a name, which has entered everyday language, a so-called generic name, no longer qualifies for trademark protection.
Normally, the distinctiveness of a mark is a pre-requisite when it comes to registering a trademark without any opposition or legal action.
Distinctive marks include those deemed inherently distinctive in that they, include fanciful or made-up words, such as Kodak (for cameras). Arbitrary marks, which have no direct connection in terms of meaning to the underlying goods or service, may also be deemed distinctive. Take, Apple (for computers) as an example. Then there are suggestive marks, which require some reflection on the part of the consumer to connect the mark with the goods or services in question. Netflix (streaming services) is a suggestive mark.
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