NameChangers PodcastTrademarking

Getting “Fanci” with Trademarking | NameChangers Episode #7

By October 21, 2019 May 26th, 2020 No Comments

In Episode #7 of NameChangers, we have reached the end of our Trademark Strength journey with our final and strongest strength, Fanciful Marks. It sounds like something out of a Disney movie, and that’s not far off because Fanciful Marks are just that, made up. Listen to the episode to learn more!

Episode #7 Transcription:

We have now reached the end of our Trademark Strength journey with our final and strongest strength, Fanciful Marks. It sounds like something out of a Disney movie, and that’s not far off because Fanciful Marks are just that, made up.

I’m James Doherty and this is Name Changers

James: So, for something to be arbitrary it needs to be something in the zeitgeist. But for something to be fanciful it needs to be completely made up, random.

Chris: More or less, correct. So a fanciful mark, for lack of a better term, is a mark that is made up, it doesn’t exist in any language, living or dead, it’s some random amalgamation of letters and sounds that a company has decided to identify with their goods or services.

James: So Suggestive Mark gave them a pause, Arbitrary Mark gave them a mental stop, but Fanciful Marks, well just give them a full on look of confusion.

What are these words? Where did they come from? Why are these companies using them?

And that’s one great part about Fanciful Mark, they produce cool stories. Today’s market wants to know the incredible story of their founders overcoming strife and crafting this incredible product to solve a problem. And that’s why on TV or on social media the character of the CEO is so prevalent. And a completely made up name has the consumer think, Where did that come from?

Chris: The perfect example in my mind of a Fanciful Mark is Exxon, E-X-X-O-N, the oil company. Nobody that I’m aware of has been able to dig up the word Exxon in Greek, Latin or any living language. It is just the name of the company and that has the strongest strength as a trademark because no one else is ever going to need to use that ever. There’s no word like that in the english language.

James: In 1870, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company. Now, the company became so gigantic that it started to be seen as a monopoly, so in 1911, under the Sherman Antitrust Act, the company was ordered to split into 33 different companies. Some retained the Standard Oil name, but others created their own name such as Socony Oil and Vacuum Oil, which eventually formed Mobil, and SoCal Oil, which eventually became Chevron.

Now, one company, Jersey Standard, began marketing as Esso, E-S-S-O, and other companies from the split disapproved of that the name because it was so similar to the letters S and O, standing for Standard Oil. Because of this, they started marketing as Enco and Humble Oil in different states. Ironically, they later found out that the word Enco sounds very similar to a Japanese slang term meaning “stalled car”. Eventually, they decided to form under one name, and they changed it to Exxon.

Here’s another one:

Back in 1926, a man named Edwin H Land dropped out of Harvard and created a company that made polarizing filters for automobile lights. This reduced glare and improved safety. This proved successful and he continued his research with his former physics professor, George Wheelwright, and created Land-Wheelwright Labs in 1932.

One day on a walk with his young daughter, she wanted to know why she couldn’t see the picture he had just taken of her. Land knew the answer was in that it needed to be developed, but neither he nor his daughter thought that answer was good enough. So, he set out to change it. His company invented the polarizing disc in 1935, and they started being used on lamps, military goggles, but Land knew the perfect use. He renamed the company Polaroid in 1937. ‘’’’
Polar from polarized, and -oid meaning to resemble.

If you name your company Sweet Lollipops, no one is going to ask you to tell the story of how you came up with it, but with a Fanciful Mark, it becomes inherent.

Also, with it, you can have a lot of fun. The word is yours to define.

Because of that, however, it takes a lot of marketing dollars to educate the customer. Unlike some other levels, there is absolutely no inherent connection to your product or service, and because of that you have to teach them how to say, spell, and use this new word.

Also, since the word has a fresh slate, a strong reputation is important. When I say Exxon, one could think of a great time they had at one of their stations with the friendly desk employee, or think of the oil spills they’ve suffered in the past.

So we did it, we’re here, we’ve made it to the end of our journey in Strength of Trademark. So I’m just gonna give you a quick summary.

First we talked about Generic Mark. Now, these are essential words you cannot trademark because all companies in the space should be able to use them. Words like cereal, computer, table.
Then we talked about Descriptive Mark – now Descriptive Marks describe a product or service and then uses that as a name. Due to this, it’s very hard to protect, but with enough work, you can eventually do it. Ex. Geek Squad or Sweet Lollipops.
Then we talked about Suggestive Marks – now a Suggestive Mark is a name that suggests what the product or service is about. Ex. Microsoft, software for microcomputers or, my favorite, Jaguar which implies the car is similar to the animal.
Then we have Arbitrary Mark. These are unrelated words to a product or service used as a company name. Ex. Apple Computers or Purple Mattresses
Finally, Fanciful Mark. These words are completely made up words like Kodak or Clorox.

So I hope you learned a lot from this series and I hope it prevents you getting any lawsuits or cease and desist letters.

Name Changers is made in association with NameStormers, a naming agency in Austin, TX. Find out more about them at Namestormers.com. Very special thanks to Christopher Roden for helping us in this series. If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on iTunes, it really helps people find the podcast. I’m James Doherty, we’ll see you next week.

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