The Principal and Supplemental Register in Federal Trademark Law
January 19, 2023 — Trademark law in the United States is governed by the Lanham Act, which provides for two different types of trademark registration: the principal register and the supplemental register. The main difference between the two is the level of legal protection and the requirements for registration.
The principal register is the primary register for trademarks in the United States. In order to qualify for registration on the principal register, a mark must be distinctive and capable of identifying the source of the goods or services for which it is used. This means that the mark must be either inherently distinctive or have acquired distinctiveness through secondary meaning. Additionally, the mark must not be likely to cause confusion with any existing registered trademarks or pending applications.
Once a mark is registered on the principal register, the owner is entitled to a number of legal benefits, including the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services for which it is registered, the right to bring legal action against anyone who uses a confusingly similar mark, and the right to use the registered trademark symbol (®).
The supplemental register, on the other hand, is a secondary register for trademarks that do not meet the requirements for registration on the principal register. This may include marks that are descriptive or geographically descriptive, but have not acquired secondary meaning. While registration on the supplemental register does not provide the same level of legal protection as registration on the principal register, it does provide some benefits. For example, the owner of a mark registered on the supplemental register can use the trademark registration symbol (™) and can bring legal action against anyone who uses a mark that is confusingly similar to the registered mark in connection with the same or related goods or services.
In summary, the principal register offers a higher level of legal protection and benefits than the supplemental register. To be registered on the principal register, a mark must be distinctive, not likely to be confused with existing marks and capable of identifying the source of the goods or services for which it is used. The supplemental register, on the other hand, is a secondary register for marks that do not meet the requirements for the principal register, but still have some level of legal protection.
If you need help registering a trademark, contact Gleam Law and one of our attorneys can help.