Unlocking Supplemental Register Trademarks: Principal vs. Supplemental Register Explained

Unlocking the Supplemental Register Trademark: Principal vs. Supplemental Register Explained

Are you ready to dive into the fascinating world of trademarks? Strap in, because today, we’re exploring the ins and outs of a lesser-known gem in the realm of intellectual property: the Supplemental Register trademark. Whether you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or just curious about trademark law, understanding this unique register can provide you with valuable insights into protecting your brand. So, let’s get started!

The Two Registers at the USPTO

First things first, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) operates two trademark registers: the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register.

Principal Register Trademark vs. Supplemental Register Trademark

The Principal Register

The Principal Register is the primary trademark register administered and maintained by the USPTO. This prestigious register is reserved for trademarks with distinctive qualities, offering trademark owners a host of advantages, including:

– Constructive Notice: Your claim of ownership is publicly known. This means you can use the registration symbol Ò. “You may only use the registration symbol with the trademark for the goods or services listed in the federal trademark registration.”

– Legal Presumption: You’re presumed to own the mark exclusively.

– Constructive Use Date: Your use is established as of the application filing date.

– Federal Court Action: You can bring trademark disputes to federal court.

– Customs Service Protection: Prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

– Incontestable Status: Subject to statutory defenses, your mark can become incontestable.

– International Registration: Use your US registration as a basis for foreign registration.

– Amazon Brand Registry Eligibility: Qualify for the Amazon Brand Registry.

If you don’t specify a register in your application, the USPTO presumes that you seek registration on the Principal Register.

The Supplemental Register Trademark

Now, let’s talk about the Supplemental Register trademark. This is the USPTO’s secondary trademark register, designed for trademarks that may not be distinctive at first but could gain distinction over time. Certain marks not eligible for the Principal Register can find a home on the Supplemental Register.

TIP: A comprehensive trademark search will help you figure out if your trademark could end up on the Supplemental Register.

Descriptive Trademarks

merely descriptive trademark refusal definition

What types of trademarks are typically filed on the Supplemental Register? Descriptive marks, that’s what! These marks describe “an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use of the specified goods or services.” Even if they don’t describe everything about a product, as long as they describe a significant aspect, they could qualify for the Supplemental Register.

Benefits of the Supplemental Register

Don’t be discouraged by the term ‘secondary’ – Supplemental Register trademarks enjoy several benefits, including:

– Use of ® Symbol: You can proudly display the registered trademark symbol.

– Federal Court Action: Just like on the Principal Register, you can protect your mark in federal court.

– USPTO Database: Your trademark is searchable on the USPTO database, discouraging potential infringers.

– International Registration: Use your US registration as a basis for foreign registration.

– Basis for Refusal: The USPTO may cite your trademark as a basis for refusing similar trademark registrations.

Use in Commerce Rules

One important caveat to consider is that trademarks on the Supplemental Register must be in lawful use in commerce before they can be registered. Intent-to-use applicants are not eligible until they’ve filed an acceptable allegation of use. When you make the move to the Supplemental Register after filing an acceptable allegation of use, the effective filing date is the date of that allegation.

Maintaining Your Supplemental Register Trademark

Trademark maintenance is key, whether on the Principal or Supplemental Register. The deadlines for maintaining your Supplemental Register trademark are as follows:

trademark renewals infographic

– Between the 5th and 6th years, file a Declaration of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse under section 8.

– Between the 9th and 10th years, file the first Declaration of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse and an Application for Renewal under sections 8 and 9.

– Every ten years thereafter, file subsequent Declarations of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse along with an Application for Renewal under sections 8 and 9.

However, there is a crucial difference to note. While trademarks on the Principal Register can attain incontestable status through Section 15, this provision is not available for trademarks on the Supplemental Register. Section 15 allows a registered mark to become incontestable after five years of continuous use, providing a powerful layer of protection.

Transitioning to the Principal Register?

If you’ve been rolling with a Supplemental Register trademark and feel it’s time to level up, you have options. Trademarks on the Principal Register can amend to the Supplemental Register, but the reverse isn’t possible. To file your trademark on the Principal Register, you’ll need to file a new trademark application.

A key point to remember is that if your trademark has been in use for five years or more, you may be eligible for the Principal Register, provided you can prove acquired distinctiveness. This means that your mark has become distinctive through your use in commerce.

One common method to prove acquired distinctiveness is “Five Years of Use.” This entails demonstrating substantial and exclusive use of your mark in commerce for five years before claiming distinctiveness. While this can be accepted as prima facie evidence in “appropriate cases,” the USPTO might require additional evidence based on the nature of your mark.

It’s important to understand that claiming acquired distinctiveness through Section 2(f) can be complex and is subject to specific regulations. For the best results, consult with a trademark attorney or professional to navigate the process effectively.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the Supplemental Register trademark offers an attractive option for businesses with descriptive or nondistinctive marks that hope to gain distinction over time. Understanding the benefits and rules of this register can be crucial in protecting your brand and ensuring you meet all the necessary requirements. If the day comes when you decide to upgrade to the Principal Register, remember that with time and the right evidence, it’s a possibility.


So, whether you’re starting a new business or looking to protect your brand, the Supplemental Register trademark is a valuable tool in your intellectual property toolkit. Get familiar with the rules, make use of its benefits, and keep an eye on that clock for maintenance deadlines. Your brand deserves the best protection, and the Supplemental Register is here to help you achieve it!

The information provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. All information on the Site is provided in good faith; however, we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, validity, or completeness of any information on the Site. The Site cannot and does not contain legal advice. The legal information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Consult a licensed attorney for legal advice.

1 thought on “Unlocking Supplemental Register Trademarks: Principal vs. Supplemental Register Explained”

  1. Pingback: Descriptive Trademarks Explored

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *