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I want to start doing some media stuff on YouTube etc and would like to have the word "Cola" in my name (e.g. names like ColaFinder, ColaCabin, StaleCola etc.). Now I am trying to figure out whether the word "Cola" is subject to any IP laws/is trademarked etc. Unfortunately googling for it ALWAYS returns "can I use coke", and not just "cola".

I'm not looking for any legally binding counsel - I am aware of the limitations of this site. Just trying to get some inputs on this as I struggle to find info online.

FWIW my research has uncovered that there is a plant called cola: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cola_(plant) , so I figure it can not be trademarked on it's own, one can only trademark a specific combination?

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Can the word "Cola" be used for commercial purposes?

It depends on what you want to do with it, but most uses would be permissible. "Cola" is, as you note, a generic term, comparable to "trout" or "sugar" or "beer."

Still, generic words may be subject to trademark protection. Even "coca" is a generic word. Such protection is, furthermore, not exclusive; trademark protection is more subtle and complex than most people realize.

There might be a company called "Cola" that operates guided outdoor activities, but that wouldn't necessarily prevent an unrelated company of the same name from pursuing the same business in another jurisdiction. Similarly, it might not prevent a company that repairs household appliances in the same jurisdiction from calling itself "Cola." For example, in the US, you can buy "Dove" personal care products and "Dove" chocolate; they are sold under distinct trademarks.

The central criterion is confusion: trademark protection primarily prevents others from confusing consumers about the source of goods or services. Even if a word or phrase is unambiguously a protected trademark, there are still allowable uses, most notably to designate the product, service, or company associated with the trademark. For example, if someone wants to tell a story about a bottle of Coca Cola (or even to claim "our product is better than Coca Cola"), the owner of the Coca Cola trademark cannot use trademark protection to prevent them from using the phrase "Coca Cola" in the story (or to make the claim).

For a specific opinion about a specific use of a specific trademark, you should engage a qualified lawyer with experience in trademark law.

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    And if a company sold birds, it could use the term "dove" to describe its products without interference from other trademarks, but would almost certainly be unable to acquire any exclusive right to use that term.
    – supercat
    Jul 5, 2021 at 19:28
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    It maybe be worth noting that each of the Dove companies has attempted to sue the other for trademark infringement. Neither was successful.
    – KRyan
    Jul 6, 2021 at 0:46
  • @KRyan I was not aware of that, but it's not surprising. In fact, I'd've been surprised if it had been otherwise.
    – phoog
    Jul 6, 2021 at 10:29

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