A suggestive trademark is a type of trademark that suggests, but does not describe, the characteristics or qualities of the goods or services for which it is used. Suggestive trademarks are considered to be more distinctive and therefore more likely to be registered with the USPTO and protected by Trademark Law than descriptive trademarks, which directly describe the goods or services. Examples of suggestive trademarks include “Coppertone” for suntan lotion and “Jaguar” for automobiles.
Suggestive trademarks fall below arbitrary trademarks and fanciful trademarks in spectrum of distinctiveness, but above descriptive trademarks. Where a descriptive trademark would lead the consumer by the hand (i.e. the trademark actually describes what the product or service is or what it does), a suggestive trademark would lead the consumer by the consumer’s mind (i.e. trademark only hints at what the product or service is or what it does (a mental leap is required)). The trademark suggests certain characteristics of the good or service which a consumer can only establish the association through imagination and reflection of the mind. One test to help determine if a trademark is suggestive or descriptive is called the “degree of imagination” test. This means that if a trademark communicates information directly, then it will most likely be seen as descriptive, but if the trademark stands for an idea which requires some thought or imagination to associate the trademark to the goods or service, then it is most likely suggestive.
As long as the quality of the good or service is not instantly apparent and the consumer must reflect and using thought or imagination to determine the characteristics of the good or service, the trademark will be deemed suggestive and valid.
Examples of trademarks that have been ruled suggestive by courts:
“Equine Technologies” – suggestive for horse hoof pads
“CarMax” – suggestive for a used car dealership
“L’Eggs” – suggestive for pantyhose
“Public Eye” – suggestive for a weekly tabloid publication
“Quick Green” – suggestive for grass seed