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What is...the Supplemental vs the Principal Trademark Register?

R with a circle

The USPTO maintains two separate trademark registers, the Supplemental and the Principal registers. When applying for trademark protection, one consideration is whether your mark will be placed on the supplemental vs principal trademark register. Both registers provide the following:

  • the right to use the R in a circle symbol (above) with your trademark

  • a basis for seeking protection of your trademark in certain foreign countries through the Madrid Protocol

  • a listing in the USPTO database, to put the public on notice of your registration

  • a block of a registration of a trademark that is likely to cause confusion with your trademark

  • a basis for filing a lawsuit for trademark infringement in federal court

Of the two registers, the Principal Register is preferred, but if you are unable to have your mark on that register, all is not lost. Each register provides value to your company. Over time, the goal is to get onto the Principal Register if that is not initially available to you due to lack of distinctiveness.

Principal Register:

  • is for inherently distinctive marks (think fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive).

  • carries a presumption of 1) the validity of the registered trademark, 2) ownership of the trademark, and (3) the nationwide exclusive right to use the trademark in commerce in connection with the products/services listed in the registration 

  • can become incontestable with 5 years of continuous and exclusive use.

Supplemental Register:

  • is for non-distinctive marks, which are trademarks that have not yet acquired sufficient distinctiveness or “secondary meaning” in the minds of consumers as determined by the USPTO. 

  • are often deemed merely descriptive, having geographic significance, or are a surname, for example.

  • after five years of substantially exclusive use of a mark, a registration can be obtained on the Principal Register

If you have questions about any of this or need help getting a mark from the Supplemental Register to the Principal Register, please reach out. We are here to help.

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