Recently, the Independent Fashion Bloggers website published an awesome article titled “The Blogger Name Generator: 9 Easy Ways to Name Your Blog.” A blog’s name could be its bread and butter, as far as intellectual property is concerned. Who in the fashion blogging world hasn’t heard of The Sartorialist or Bryan Boy?
The name of a blog may also serve as as trademark, so it’s important to choose wisely. Read on for a brief overview of U.S. trademark law as it pertains to blog names, and be sure to check out my Legal Disclaimer as well.
As noted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.”
In other words, a trademark tells a customer exactly what he or she is getting and what company makes the product. For example, when you see “Louis Vuitton,” you know that company sells high-end luxury leather goods. When you see “The Man Repeller,” you know you’re visiting a blog with hilarious content cleverly mixed with haute couture. “Dom Perignon?” Champagne. “Christie’s?” Auctions. “Tiffany’s?” Jewelry. As for the Blogger Name Generator, what IFB has done in essence, is highlight a cornerstone of U.S. trademark law called the Spectrum of Distinctiveness.
In a nutshell, the Spectrum of Distinctiveness is a measure of trademark strength– the more distinctive a trademark, the stronger it is and more legal protection it receives. The Spectrum is simple, but super important. Here’s a quick break down:
There are five levels of distinctiveness, the top level (fanciful) being the strongest (i.e. lots of protection). As you go down the spectrum, distinctiveness, strength and protection decrease. Marks that qualify as fanciful, arbitrary or suggestive are stronger than descriptive marks, and generic marks generally are not afforded legal protection. So it’s a good idea to try to come up with a blog name that would fit into the top three categories!
Fanciful Marks: These are trademarks that consist of totally made up words and are inherently distinctive. They are extremely unique so there’s not much chance any other business will have the same name. Therefore, there’s not much chance for customers to confuse this business with another business. Remember, the main point of trademarks is to prevent customer confusion. Example: “Zoosk,” for a dating website.
Arbitrary Marks: These are trademarks that don’t have much context or connection to the goods or services that are offered for sale. Example: “Apple” for computers or “Starbucks” for coffee.
Suggestive Marks: These trademarks cleverly suggest to customers what the goods or services offered might be. Example: “Twitter” for an online social network or “Bag Borrow or Steal” for an online boutique that rents purses.
Descriptive Marks: These merely describe the goods or services offered. Because there’s a greater chance that other businesses selling the same type of product could use the same or similar mark, there’s a greater chance that customers could be confused as to which company is offering the goods. As such, these marks are incredibly weak and not afforded legal protection until they gain secondary meaning, which is a fancy way of saying they become extremely well-known by the public. Hypothetical Example: “Chewy” for chewing gum.
Generic Marks: These are words that generally cannot serve as trademarks because they do not identify the source (the company) of the goods or services to the public. Example: Aspirin used to be a trademark until the public started using the word to identify many types of pain medications. It became generic because it stopped identifying the source of the goods. If someone asks for an aspirin, they may be referring to Bayer, Ibuprofen or Advil.
The majority of the name suggestions from the Blogger Name Generator appear to fall within the category of suggestive marks, which is pretty good. However, I would be hesitant to use a trademarked word or brand within my own blog name, such as “Chanelista” or “Diorista,” as suggested in list number three of the IFB article. Sure, they look like made up words and may seem to be arbitrary at first. But the whole point here is to be creative and distinguish your brand or company from other companies, so why give the possible competition a shout out in your blog name!
Some of my favorite blog names mentioned in the article were Fashion Sushi and Lipstick and Lemon Drops. Really clever and cute, these may also qualify as suggestive marks. For more information about U.S. trademark law, you can check out the USPTO’s website which even includes helpful videos. Also, please note that this article is not legal advice and only meant for general educational purposes. I hope you found this particular post informative, and good luck choosing a blog name!