Comparatively Speaking: Trademarks, Principal Register vs. Supplement Register

Industry expert Tony O'Lenick explains the difference between a trademark on the principal register vs. the supplement register.

A trademark protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. A trademark or service mark may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on either the Principal or Supplement Registers.

The Principal Register is the register with which most people are familiar. It is the Principal Register that grants the benefits described above to registered marks. The Supplemental Register is primarily designed for marks that are descriptive in nature in that they are capable of distinguishing the applicant's goods or services once secondary meaning is established; but at the present time they do not have secondary meaning.

The benefits that apply to Supplemental Registrations are that the mark will appear in trademark searches, and that the registrant is given the right to use the ® symbol in connection with the mark. In addition, having a mark registered on the Supplemental Register will assist in achieving registration of the mark in certain foreign countries.

Finally, Supplement Registrations can be used to help prove exclusive use of a mark.

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