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  • Writer's pictureKate Kliebert

Principal vs Supplemental Register: Understanding the Differences and What’s Best for You

One of the most common legal processes I help my clients with is trademark registration. It’s also a topic I receive a lot of questions about. In this blog we’re focusing on understanding the two different trademark registries available through the United States Patent and Trademark Office: the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register.

The Principal Register

The Principal Register is the one I recommend clients apply for first because a mark registered on the Principal Register comes with considerably more protection. The primary requirement to register a mark on the Principal Register is that your trademark is distinctive, meaning that it does more than simply describe the goods or services you offer.

Distinctive trademarks are essentially elements of your brand (i.e. words, names, terms, colors, etc.) that are uniquely identifiable with your brand. Registration on the Principal Register provides you with presumed validity and ownership of the mark (which gives you more security in the event of lawsuits - whether against you or if someone is improperly using your trademark). Another benefit to being on this registry is that after five years of continuous use, you can claim incontestable rights in your trademark, effectively protecting you from most legal actions that could put your trademark at risk.

If you have something you’re wanting to trademark and you think it’s distinctive, it’s worth applying for the Principal Register. If you end up getting denied, you can amend the application to apply for the Supplemental Register instead.

The Supplemental Register

Although the Supplemental Register doesn’t offer as many benefits as the Primary Register, it can still be very helpful! The Supplemental Register is for trademarks that may become eligible for registration on the Primary Register but currently are not eligible because they are non-distinctive. While being on this register does not provide you with presumption of validity or ownership, and doesn’t allow for your trademark to become incontestable, there are still reasons to register your mark on it. Namely, this register still allows you to bring a case of trademark infringement to federal court, allows you to use the recognized trademark ® symbol, and prevents registration of any other marks that are likely to cause confusion with yours.

While getting approved for the Principal Register is preferred as it comes with more protection, if you’re unable to get approved for it it’s definitely worth trying to amend your application for the Supplemental Register. This will at least offer you some protection, and down the line as your brand becomes more refined and distinct, you may eventually be able to reapply for the Principal Register. At the end of the day, it’s better to have some protection than to have none.

Interested in learning more about our trademark services? You can find out more about how we can work together here.


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