The Differences Between the USPTO Supplemental Register and the Principle Register

When you’re first trying to register a trademark, the entire process can be incredibly confusing. Most people who set out to trademark something for themselves or their brand and business don’t realize that there are in fact two distinctly different trademarks. Even when we first set out to register our first trademark, we had thought it was just one application for one trademark, but there is, in fact, this thing called the Supplemental Register. Which is not in fact something you actually register for, but rather that you’re assigned a Supplemental Register. But more on that in a little.

What in the heck is a Supplemental Register? Well, it is one of the two types of trademark registers that the USPTO (United States Patent & Trademark Office) offers. Essentially the Supplemental Register is the secondary register list that includes registered trademarks that do not yet qualify for the Principle Register. With this Supplemental Register, you are still able to apply the ® symbol to your trademarked item. But there are quite a few differences between the USPTO Supplemental Register and the Principle Register.

Today, we wanted to look at what those differences were as well as what the qualifications are for each of the types of registers, and the benefits of both of them. This way you can understand the distinct differences between these two trademark registers. 

What are the differences between the Supplemental Register and Principle Register?

Everyone who files for a trademark will file a request for a Principle register. This is because it provides a little more protection than the Supplemental Register. For instance:

  • Only the most unique and individual trademarks are given the Principle Register. They are reserved for trademarks for items that stand out and are truly distinct.
  • When your trademark is given the Principle Register certificate, it is presumed that you are the owner of it in all 50 states. 
  • Once you’re able to receive a Principle Register certificate for your trademark, it provides you with a larger amount of protection of your ownership. It becomes much harder for someone to stake claim to owning what you’ve already trademarked. 

Most people who file for a trademark start off by receiving a Supplemental Register certificate, however, and not by choice. A Supplemental Register means that the USPO officer reviewing your application rejects some aspect of your requested mark. Because of its supplemental status, it means that there is a bit less protection in regards to your ownership of your trademark. You will essentially amend your initial application and request a Supplemental Register, however there are differences in protections between these two registers. Here are some other differences:

  • Staring out with a Supplemental Register certificate for your trademark simply means that you’re not yet eligible for listing in the Principle Register, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to in time. 
  • The most common trademark certificate is the Supplemental Register, which means that while you’re not yet able to be listed on the Principle Register, your trademark still has some protections of ownership. 
  • After five years of ownership of your trademark’s listing on the Supplemental Register, you are able to reapply for a Principle Register certificate. You have a better shot at earning this listing if you’re able to establish the distinctiveness of your trademark through advertising and marketing campaigns and brand recognition. 

Qualifying for the Principle Register:

Simply put, the more that your trademark is exclusive to your brand, the more likely it will be considered unique and exclusive only to you. If your trademark is more describing your products or services then the less likely it will receive Principle designation. 

Qualifying for the Supplemental Register:

Think of a store with the name, “The Bike Store”. Something like that would still be able to qualify for a Supplemental Register certificate as there is ownership but that specific trademark wouldn’t own it across the entire 50 states. If you’re attempting to trademark a descriptive mark that describes your products or services, you’re most likely going to be able to receive a Supplemental Register designation for your trademark. 

Benefits of the Supplemental Register:

  • You are able to use the ® symbol in any print advertising, commercials, and really anything that pertains to your trademark for your brand. 
  • Your trademark will appear in any trademark and clearance searches. 
  • Being designated with the Supplemental Register for a period of five years helps your ability to prove your product or brands distinctiveness. This ultimately helps you qualify and achieve Principle Register designation.

Cons of Supplemental Register:

There really is one here and it’s the most important. With the Supplemental Register certificate, you’re not able to stake claim to full ownership that cannot be contested. 

Benefits of the Principle Register:

This is everything for those who set out to file trademarks, as obtaining listing on this Register gives you incontestability of your trademark ownership across all 50 states. 

These are the main differences and benefits of the Supplemental Register vs the Principle Register listing of your trademark. When it comes to deciding which of them to apply for, it doesn’t hurt to set out to qualify for a Principle Register first, especially if you’re able to prove your brand or products uniqueness and that it stands out from everything else. 

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