Supplemental vs. Principal Register


Supplemental vs. Principal Register

As part of the Lanham Act set forth in 1946, the principal register provides ownership and exclusive rights over trademarks that are distinctly unique. The supplemental register however, is a less widely known but no less important registration option. Supplemental registration serves as a way to register trademarks that may be more descriptive in nature. Should the trademark become more distinctive over time, it is also possible to move from the supplemental to the principal register.

Supplemental vs. Principal Register Trademarks

In order to secure a place in the principal register, an entity must prove the uniqueness of their trademark. Examples can range from Google to Yahoo or Nike to Adidas. So long as the trademark is non-descriptive of the goods or services at issue, a company will be able to register it to the principal register of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

So, what then does supplemental registration provide? Unfortunately, not all trademarks can meet the necessary standard to be put onto the principal registration immediately. In many cases the trademark is simply too descriptive for it to be considered distinct in the USPTO’s view. However, this doesn’t necessarily exclude the owner from pursuing registration. A supplemental registration can operate as a first step in the process – allowing entities to register a trademark first to the supplemental register and then prove the distinctiveness after 5 years. While supplemental registration is not as strong as a trademark on the principal register, supplemental registration does provide important benefits including:

  • The right to use the Registered R symbol.
  • The right to exclude others from using a similar trademark.
  • The trademark office will not register a confusingly similar trademark.

If you have a trademark that you believe will be subject to the supplemental register, it is highly recommended you seek the advice a trademark attorney who can provide a thorough evaluation of your options.  An option that should at least be considered is changing to a different trademark.

For more information about registering a trademark, please see our trademark registration page.

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If you have any questions about the strength of your trademark, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.


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