If you are researching potential trademarks for your business or your products, you may have come across terms such as principal register and supplemental register. To the uninitiated, these terms can be a little confusing and opaque. So, what is the difference between the two and do you have a choice when you request registration of your trademark? To begin, yes, you do have a choice; Ideally, however, you want your mark on the principal register. Generally, when discussing trademark protection, one is referring to the principal register. Marks that distinctly identify the source that the goods or services come from are placed on the principal register. Once there, these marks are given the full range of protection afforded by federal registration. The supplemental register, in contrast, is for marks that are determined to be merely descriptive and not unique. A mark that is placed on the supplemental register does not have the presumption of validity or the prospect to become incontestable, but the registrant can still use the registration symbol, bring suit for infringement, and protect the mark from confusingly similar marks. A mark that is placed on the supplemental register can subsequently be placed on the principal register if it ever does acquire distinctiveness through use by the registrant. Please contact Carstens & Cahoon, LLP if you have any questions regarding a potential or current trademark.
By James Tuck