Traditionally, brand names have been categorized by the courts as falling into one of four categories of varying strength for potential trademark protection: whimsical, suggestive, descriptive, and generic; whimsical providing the strongest trademark protection and generic providing no protection whatsoever. However, internet brands are changing the way people look at products, and, according to an elite cadre of intellectuals, rendering the traditional classifications obsolete.
While the Lexus brand was determined to be a whimsical name for a car, the website lexus.com contains exactly what you'd expect- that is, pictures, descriptions and prices of Lexus cars presented in a format which many non-state-of-the-art computer systems are incapable of displaying. Therefore, leading legal experts expect the courts to determine that the brand lexus.com is merely descriptive.
Popular confusion over where the acronym stops and the regular reading starts prevent this brand from meeting the requirements of any of the more literal categories. Attorneys of the Shulzberger family recently filed the following interpretations with the 9th Circuit Trademark Court:
New York Town(NYT)-IMES.com
New York Times Interactive-Newspaper (NYTI)-mes.com
As expected, the court ruled that the mix of acronym and words was arbitrary, and therefore, the brand was ruled to be whimsical.
While palindromes are normally considered to be in the public domain by default, in Madam v. Madame the Supreme Court ruled that erroneous palindromes are not in the public domain, and therefore should be assumed to be whimsical. However, as com.racecar.com is a popular sight featuring pictures of symmetric racecars with asymmetrically mirrored backgrounds, the court is expected to find that the brand is actually suggestive and therefore entitled to a lower level of protection.
Brands ending in -zone are almost always ruled to be descriptive, and at first glance this presumption would appear to relevant for the American Medical Association (AMA)-zone website. However, a rarely-noticed ruling from the 7th circuit Trademark Court recognizes that misspellings of the word 'amazon' are in fact commonly used as brands for pornography distribution centers. Therefore, legal experts predict that amazone.com will in fact be given generic status.
Are they valid trademarks?