A trade mark can either be a fanciful mark, arbitrary mark, suggestive mark, descriptive mark or generic mark. A fanciful mark gets the strongest form of protection and generic the weakest form of protection.
A fanciful mark is a coined mark and does not indicate or have any connection with the goods or services to which it is applied. For example Kodak for photographic supplies, where the mark used is fanciful in nature and makes no sense with regard to the product. This type of marks are totally unknown and completely out of common usage. They are considered as the strongest marks.
An arbitrary mark provides the second strongest form of protection. Arbitrary marks are existing words applied to totally unrelated goods or services. For example Apple for computers, camel for cigarette, where the marks signify something other than the products or services on which it is used.
The next type of marks is suggestive marks. They suggest the kind of goods or services to which the mark is applied after application of certain amount of thought. They are protectable marks but not as strong as fanciful or arbitrary marks. For example, yellow pages for telephone directories.
The next category of marks is descriptive marks. These marks describe the goods or services for which they are applied and do not get strong form of protection. For example, Coffee Shop, for a shop that sells coffee is descriptive because it describes the nature of business being carried out. Such marks can be registered only if they acquire secondary meaning through prior usage.
Generic Marks are marks that become synonymous to the goods or services for which they are applied due to extensive or wide usage. The marks are so widely used that the goods or products are referred by the marks. Such marks are not distinctive and therefore, get very weak protection. For example, Xerox for photocopying machines has become generic and has lost its distinctiveness.
A person must choose fanciful or arbitrary marks for getting strong trade mark protection. Efforts must be put on choosing before launching the mark to ensure that similar marks do not exist. The best approach to choosing a trade mark is to shortlist three or four marks and carry out a trade mark clearance search. After performing the search, a mark that has no identical or similar marks can be chosen for protection.