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Arbitrary Trademarks: Leveraging Unrelated Terms for Branding Success

In the competitive world of branding, it's crucial for creative professionals and agencies to develop memorable and legally protectable brand names. One powerful strategy for achieving this is through the use of arbitrary trademarks. Arbitrary trademarks consist of common words used in an unrelated context, making them distinctive and protectable. They have no inherent connection to the goods or services they represent, creating a unique and memorable brand identity. One example is Penguin Books, as the term "penguin" has no direct connection to publishing or books, but has become a well-known and easily recognizable brand in the publishing industry.

Let's explore the benefits and challenges of using arbitrary trademarks and draw inspiration from other well-known brands that have employed this strategy to create a strong brand identity.

Benefits of Arbitrary Trademarks

Inherent Distinctiveness

Because arbitrary trademarks consist of words with no connection to the products or services they represent, they are immediately recognizable as unique brand identifiers. This inherent distinctiveness means that they can be protected as trademarks without the need to prove "secondary meaning." In contrast, marks that consist of words or phrases that directly describe a feature, quality, or characteristic of the products or services they represent (e.g., American Airlines or Cartoon Network) cannot generally be protected until they have been around long enough for the consuming public to associate the mark with a specific source.

Less Likely to Be Challenged

Arbitrary trademarks face fewer legal challenges since they don't directly describe a feature or characteristic of the product or service. This makes them less susceptible to claims of being too generic or descriptive.

Memorable and Unique

The use of unrelated terms can create a striking and memorable impression in the minds of consumers, making it easier for them to remember the brand and associate it with the specific product or service.

Challenges of Arbitrary Trademarks

Potential for Consumer Confusion

The use of unrelated terms may lead to some initial confusion among consumers as they try to understand the connection between the brand name and the product or service being offered. It's essential to provide clear messaging and marketing to help bridge this gap and foster brand recognition.

Need for Effective Marketing

To overcome potential consumer confusion and establish a strong brand identity, it's crucial to invest in effective marketing strategies. This may include clear, engaging visuals, targeted messaging, and consistent brand experiences across various channels.

Examples of Arbitrary Trademarks


Apple Inc. is a prime example of a successful arbitrary trademark. The word "apple" has no inherent connection to computers or technology, making it inherently distinctive and legally protectable. Apple has built a strong brand identity through consistent product design, innovation, and marketing.


The e-commerce giant Amazon uses an arbitrary trademark by applying the name of the world's largest river to an online retail platform. This unrelated term has helped establish a memorable and easily recognizable brand, representing a vast selection of products and services.


Dove, a personal care brand, uses the name of a gentle bird to represent its line of products such as soaps, shampoos, and body washes. The unrelated term conveys a sense of softness and purity, successfully differentiating the brand in a competitive market.


Arbitrary trademarks offer significant advantages to creative professionals, agencies, and their clients looking to establish a strong and protectable brand identity. By leveraging unrelated terms, brands can create memorable and unique impressions in the minds of consumers, while enjoying inherent distinctiveness and legal protection. The key to success lies in the careful selection of words and a commitment to effective marketing strategies that build consumer recognition and understanding.



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