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Can I trademark a common word?

When defining your business, a single word can seem like a succinct, strong option. However, challenges can arise when it comes to protecting these words with a trademark.

Tips for trademarking a word

Trademarking a word allows creators to identify their brands to consumers. When something has trademark protection, competitors cannot use the same words for their offerings. 

However, you cannot trademark just any word. In general, some words are easier to get a trademark for than others. If you are looking to name a new business or product, you might want to focus on:

  • Making up a word
  • Words that do not have any relation to your product
  • Suggestive words that evoke specific images related to your product

These types of words can help set your business offerings apart in the market. They can also make it easier to trademark the term.

Challenges to anticipate

Unfortunately, trademarking a single word is not always easy or possible. For instance, issues arise when the word is common. In these situations, there are restrictions.

You must ask yourself: Is the word describing the products? If so, you may not be able to trademark it. A typical example of this is the company Apple Inc. being able to trademark their tech products. However, someone would not be able to trademark the word “apple” if they are selling apples.

Protecting sellers, not prohibiting all use

That said, just because a word is common or widely used does not mean someone cannot trademark it.

For instance, Meghan Markle recently filed a trademark application on the word “archetypes,” the name of her forthcoming podcast. This word exists – and has existed for hundreds of years. And many people initially lashed out at Markle for trying to take ownership of the word. Seeking to trademark “archetypes” would prevent others from using it to identify streaming media, downloadable music files and other related products in the same category as her podcast. It would not prohibit everyone from using the word.

Trademarking words, including common words, can be an effective way to define your business. However, it can be complicated, so legal guidance when navigating trademark issues can be crucial. 


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