The scope of protection afforded to suggestive marks is limited, even after a mark used for a long time is registered and has become "incontestable." However, while courts have reached differing conclusions, the Trademark Trial Appeal Board, in a proceeding brought by the registrant of DEER AWAY against an application to register DEER-B-GON, ruled that incontestability is not indicative of the strength of the mark for purposes of determining a likelihood of confusion. In this opposition, the TTAB found that in both marks DEER did not indicate source, and although AWAY and B-GON meant the same thing, they didn't look or sound alike. The TTAB said that consumers of these products were "reasonably focused" and were not impulse buyers. It denied the opposition, allowing DEER-B-GON to proceed to registration.

Tip: When a mark is highly suggestive of its purpose or function or contents, it will be entitled to only limited protection, even after a long period of registration and use, unless it can be shown that the mark has wide public renown. Fanciful and/or arbitrary marks are stronger from the beginning than highly suggestive ones like DEER AWAY.