A Guide Through the Legal Jungle Trivia Question
Mary has a business in which she sells potatoes that are grown in Idaho. Mary is trying to decide on a name for her business that will give her strong trademark. She has chosen two potential names: Mary’s Idaho Potatoes and Maidpotes. In which name is Mary likely to have the stronger trademark and why?
- Mary’s Idaho Potatoes, because the name says exactly what the product is and who is selling it.
- Mary’s Idaho Potatoes, because the name is simple and easy for consumers to remember.
- Maidpotes, because the name is distinctive and no other Idaho potato seller is likely to have the same name.
- Maidpotes, because the name is one word instead of three.
The correct answer is C. Trademark law protects only those trademarks that are distinctive. In trademark jargon, the distinctiveness of a trademark is measured according to where it falls on a scale consisting of five categories. From most distinctive to least distinctive, the five categories are fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, merely descriptive, and generic.
Determining where a particular trademark falls on this scale of distinctiveness is often subjective. I would classify “Maidpotes” as suggestive and “Mary’s Idaho Potatoes” as merely descriptive.
(Thanks to Jaylen Johnson, J.D. Candidate 2009, Howard University School of Law, who contributed to this trivia question.)