What Is a Principal vs. Supplemental Register?

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The Lanham Act is the primary statutory foundation of United States trademark law at the federal level. With this, the Act sets forth the statutes surrounding principal and supplemental registers for trademarks. As for your unique mark, you may be unsure which registration type is most fitting, if any at all. Continue reading to learn the difference between a principal and a supplemental register and how an experienced New Jersey trademark lawyer at The Ingber Law Firm can help you determine which to apply for.

What is a principal register?

For one, your unique mark may be eligible for a principal register if it can distinguish your products and services from that of a competitor. Such distinctiveness may provide source recognition rather than simply describing the products or services. For example, “Exxon” is a word with no other meaning, yet targeted consumers still recognize it as an oil and gasoline company. Therefore, being granted a principal register may also mean that you are being granted the following protections:

  • You may achieve national constructive use and constructive notice, thereby barring your competitors from using similar marks to yours.
  • You may achieve incontestable status after five years, thereby barring your competitors from bringing forward trademark infringement claims.
  • You may be allowed to bring a federal cause of action for trademark infringement incidents, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.
  • You may be allowed to request that the United States Customs and Border Protection officials bar imported goods bearing infringing marks.

How is a principal register different from a supplemental register?

On the other hand, your unique mark may be eligible for a supplemental register if it can describe what your products and services represent. This register essentially serves as an option if you do not meet the requirements of a principal register. Even still, it may allow you to register your mark in another country. With that being said, you may not be granted the same protections as with a principal register. Rather, you may be limited to the rights provided by common law.

Can I apply for both registrations for my trademark?

You may be unable to apply for both a principal register and a supplemental register simultaneously. However, your supplemental register may eventually qualify as a principal register. This is because, after five years of its exclusive use in the market, it may take on a secondary meaning and thereby establish its distinctiveness. For example, “Bank of America” originally held a supplemental register. This is because it was deemed to describe only where it operated geographically. However, over time, its targeted consumers began to recognize it as a distinctive financial institution.

So, regardless of which you are applying for, you must hire a skilled Essex County, New Jersey intellectual property lawyer. Our team at The Ingber Law Firm is looking forward to working with you.