U.S. trademark law
Mere descriptiveness is a statutory basis for refusing registration of trademarks and service marks because the proposed mark merely describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified goods or services. With regard to trademark significance, matter may be categorized along a continuum, ranging from marks that are highly distinctive to matter that is a generic name for the goods or services.
The degree of descriptiveness can be determined only by considering it in relation to the specific goods or services. At one extreme are marks that are completely arbitrary or fanciful. Next on the continuum are suggestive marks, followed by merely descriptive matter. Finally, generic terms for the goods or services are at the opposite end of the continuum from arbitrary or fanciful marks.
The major reasons for not protecting descriptive marks are: (1) to prevent the owner of a mark from inhibiting competition in the sale of particular goods or services; and (2) to maintain freedom of the public to use the language involved, thus avoiding the possibility of harassing infringement suits by the registrant against others who use the mark when advertising or describing their own products.
- 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1).